Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

After reading Ishmael up to page 110, there are a few things that I have come to realize. For starters, Ishmael was originally called Goliath which made him feel as though he was an individual. Once he learned that he had a name, he felt as though he had been born again but as a person. However, once the man who rescued him told him that he was not Goliath but rather Ishmael, the gorilla felt like a whole person for the first time. Ishmael describes the man as a “wealthy Jewish merchant of this city” named Walter Sokolow (page 11). Walter observed a painting of a gorilla named Goliath that Walter saw as a “symbol for the Nazi giant that was then engaged in crushing the race of David” but realized that Ishmael was not this terrible creature (page 11). Considering that Goliath is a religious reference, I can only conclude that Ishmael is as well. Ishmael was the first son of Abraham, as God had promised Abraham that he would give him a son, and the name means “God hears.” At the start of his life story, Ishmael had asked himself “why” over and over again despite not knowing what he was really questioning. Ishmael eventually realizes that he was “unjustly deprived of some inborn right” so God heard his plea and gave him a chance at being reborn thanks to Walter. Moving on from Ishmael’s name, the Socratic method is something that is used to engage a group using probing questions. While he has failed all four of the students he’s had, he still poses in depth questions using the Socratic method to further understand why humans destroy the planet and to make them understand why they themselves do it. Ishmael views humanity as “captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels [them] to go on destroying the world in order to live” (page 15). He seems to view humanity as a trapped species that has zero insight into changing their preexisting routine of life as they’ve known it despite the fact that the routine is destroying the planet they live on. Ishmael specifically defines people in two terms: Takers and Leavers. He describes Takers as civilized people and Takers as primitive. The society that the narrator inhabits would be defined as the Taker culture while the other societies are Leavers.

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