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When finding or developing leadership traits, the character’s ego balance and ego size are critical measurements. If the subject is too centered on his or her own self-worth, they will give too much importance to the value of their decisions; if not enough importance, their decisions will be too malleable, too easily influenced by other, stronger egos. The quotation is discussing this balance. By using words with negative connotations (“malleable,” “submerged”) the speaker is finding fault with the subject’s ego balance. Ender, who is being trained as the perfect warrior, is somewhat subservient to his handlers, but as just the right times, disobeys or goes beyond subservience to rely on his own creative solutions to problems. According to Card’s larger themes, the solution to the now-natural resistance to other-ness is to let go of the ego-voice long enough to examine what another’s ego-project might be. All of the mini-conflicts in the testing rooms are demonstrations of Ender’s will vs. his handlers will—who is “malleable” (the implied metaphor is metallic—who can be forged and pounded into shape?) and who can be “submerged” in another’s will (that is, drowned in the will of another)?
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