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Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael – Horrifying

Ishmael: Horrifying

Among the people of your culture, which want to destroy the world? Which want to destroy it? As far as I know, no one specifically wants to destroy the world. And yet you do destroy it, each of you. Each of you contribute daily to the destruction of the world. This truth was stated by a gorilla named Ishmael who, through his experiences of being taken from the jungle, placed in a zoo in the 1930’s, put in a menagerie, and bought by a private owner named Mr. Sokolow, had all the time in a world to think about the world around him. Daniel Quinn writes about the horrifying realities of our culture in a book called Ishmael, by stepping outside of the world as we know it and describing what he sees through a talking gorilla. Behind the bars of his cage, he was able to take a look at our culture as an outsider, to see things that we never could. This sagacious, passive, and extremely patient primate wanted to share this knowledge to others so as to stop man from destroying the world. So, he placed an ad in the paper and caught the attention of an eager student, the narrator, who was willing to save the world.

Desperately confused, this everyday writer tries to step out of his culture and experience a whole new world. Day after day, this half ton gorilla, Ishmael, opens the narrators eyes and teaches him “how things came to be.” He starts out by dividing man into two different cultures. He calls the people of our culture takers and the people of all other cultures leavers. Each culture has a story. In Ishmael’s teachings, a story is a scenario interrelating man, the world, and the gods. This story is enacted by the people in a culture. In other words, people in a culture live as to make the story a reality.

The first story Ishmael tells is that of the takers. Every story is based on a premise. The taker premise is that the world was made for man. If the world is made for man, then it belongs to him, and man can do what ever he pleases with it. It’s our environment, our seas, our solar system, etc. The world is a support system for man. It is only a machine designed to produce and sustain human life.

Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael – The Destruction Continues

Ishmael – The Destruction Continues

Ishmael The Biblical depiction of Adam and Eve’s “fall” builds the foundation of Daniel Quinn’s novel, Ishmael. In this adventure of the spirit, a telepathic gorilla, Ishmael, uses the history of Biblical characters in order to explain his philosophy on saving the world. Attracting his final student, the narrator of the novel, with an advertisement “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person,” Ishmael counsels the narrator through a series of questions that force him to stretch his mind. Diving straight into Biblical allusions, Ishmael begins his lesson with the history of his evolution from “Goliath” (17) to Ishmael. He explains this evolution as a time of realization where he shifts from blindly accepting the infamous reputation of Goliath, an evil giant from the Bible, to the quiet, thoughtful being of Ishmael.

After his brief history, Ishmael shifts his attention to the creation. “A culture is a people enacting a story” (41), and the story of the Garden of Eden opened up new thoughts on man’s transformation from dependent to independent beings. When Adam and Eve began their lives on earth, they fully depended on the gods for all their necessities. Just like all of the other animals in the garden, they followed the philosophy of “leavers” and left the question of who should live and who should die up to the gods. However, the serpent, a member of the “taker” group tempted Eve with fruit from a tree that would give them the knowledge of life and death. Eve, which means “life” (179) in turn, tempted Adam with the fruit. Although pre-warned that eating this forbidden fruit would kill man, Adam fell into temptation and his desire for life. Through this action, his eyes were partially opened to the gods’ vision. However, this knowledge ultimately would lead to the fulfillment of the gods’ warnings that “[the world’s] doom was assured” (166). After man’s realization, he placed himself in a category separate from the animals and beasts that continued to rely on the world’s situation rather than themselves.

An allusion to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve’s descendents, Cain and Abel continued the progression of man’s shift from leavers, to what they are now, takers. The taker philosophy that “the world was made for man” (61), epitomized the their obstinate attitude that the universe was meant to be conquered and exploited by humans.

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