During Ender's training in preparation for Ender's Game he and his comrades are inspected by Colonel Graff and Seargent Dap. Graff holds a speech about possibly promoting some of the cadets and that everybody is in competition to everyone (clearly in an effort to inspire competition and quench too tight bonds between the cadets).
When he is about to leave, Ender asks if their e-mails are blocked and slightly protests against that, only to get a harsh "shut up and obey"-response. But Ender keeps on replying up to the point where the only reason seems mere defiance:
Gap: Keep it up son and you will never make it to command school!
Ender: I thought it was a legitimate question.
Ender: You said if we had a legitimate question...
Gap: DROP and give me twenty!... You think you're the smartest kid in the school?
Ender: No sir.
Gap: You will never be a commander, I will never salute you!
Ender: Yes, you will, Seargent.
Gap: Give me twenty more!... Get up. You do not speak unless spoken to. Am I clear?
all: Sir, Yes sir!
Ender: Even if I have a legitimate question?
Gap: SHUT IT WIGGIN!... Now go to sleep, all of you.
Ender (to everyone else looking at him): You heard him, get some sleep.
But I wonder what to make out of this reaction exactly, seeing that he seemed to exaggerate his truculence here a bit. But it also seemed to give him a bit of appreciation from his comrades, which together with the fact that he was a very tactical and pragmatic thinker might even suggest this as a deliberate outcome.
So are there any further hints to what Ender's motivation for this slightly rebellious reply was?
- Was he simply being a bit defiant against the authorities there, maybe due to a little discontentness with his situation (or just Graff's crushing response)?
- Or was this really just to get higher esteem from his comrades in order to become their leader (especially seeing his last sentence)?
- Or did he just want to strengthen the bonds between the cadets in general and pose the superiors as the true enemies in reaction to Graff's group-destroying announcement?
There is of course also the possibility that this has been left deliberately ambiguous in order to not draw Ender's motivations too clearly or because all those factors apply, but maybe there are more hints I missed or information about the background of his actions there.