The kind of admiration or desire people have for something or someone is always manifested when they come in touch with the person or thing. In Ishmael, the narrator initially expresses disappointment at discovering a newspaper ad posted by a teacher looking for a student interested in saving the world. However, once the narrator arrives at the teachers address only to find a gorilla, which he later on realizes, is the teacher. The narrator embraces the opportunity just to ascertain that he would finally be able to fulfill his desire. In this paper, I shall discuss the role of some of the gorilla in the novel, why the story about Nazi Germany is significant, and the opinions of Quinn and Ishmael as regards to humans.
Given the series of conversations Ishmael and the narrator engage in, it is possible to think that Quinn chose the gorilla as the teacher because throughout the story it teaches the narrator about matters concerning humans. It is also possible to think that since there were no typical teachers previously who wanted to teach the narrator how to save the world, Quinn maintains this assumption by introducing a gorilla, which is not only a typical teacher but also not a human. The Gorilla also has a history of living in a caged environment, a situation he refers to as captivity by the humans. To teach humans what he has learned about them, the Gorilla chooses the narrator as his fifth student.
I believe the novel is fundamentally optimistic because it reveals ideas that we as humans cannot admit to ourselves because we prefer to console ourselves. For instance, while explaining the theory of the takers and leavers, Ishmael mentions that both cultures have diverse myths that help in shaping the two cultures (Quinn, Daniel, 98). Also, when Ishmael dies of pneumonia, the narrator is focused on becoming a leader himself so that he can help save the world by exposing the actions of the takers. The story written by the narrator about the Nazi is significant because it illustrates the kind of challenge he is up against. The Nazi are known to be ruthless and radical which makes people fear them. The same can be said about the takers. He often loses any sense of hope; he remains open-minded and driven by the desire to save the world.
Quinn uses Ishmael as a distancing mechanism for his thoughts and philosophical theories. According to him, humans are always failing because their pursuit of dominating the rest of the world causes them to be self-destructive. However, Ishmael tries to understand why humans feel that they were called to dominate the world. He uses examples such as the creational story of Adam and Eve to explain why both the taker culture and the leaver culture have different views regarding themselves. Leavers cultural myths suggest that Takers had eaten of the tree of knowledge which granted them the authority to force their way of life on them (Quinn, Daniel, 197). It is this understanding of godliness that Ishmael finds misleading because gods knowledge does not belong to any life form.
By the end of the story, the narrator still questions why things are the way they are. This question has and will never find a satisfactory answer to it as long as we still learn philosophy. Only those who believe in creation and science can live without having to like themselves.
Quinn, Daniel. My Ishmael. Bantam, 2009.
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