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Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael – Paradigms of Yesterday

Ishmael: Paradigms of Yesterday

“Come with me if you want to live,” was all that Arnold Schwarzenegger said in his movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and after reading Daniel Quinn’s masterpiece Ishmael, one might well receive the impression Quinn echoes such sentiments. Few books have as much relevancy in this technological, ever-changing world as Ishmael.

In the beginning, according to Ishmael, God created Man to live peacefully on Earth, sustained by the fruitful bounties of Earth and subject to God’s control. That is, until Man ate of the Tree of Good and Evil in the Garden Of Eden, and conveniently forgot all the rules God had so graciously placed in front of him. From that point on, the Caucasian race, full of vanity and pride for having seen so clearly what was good on the Earth and what was not, decided to subjugate the Earth to its will. During this turn of events, totalitarian agriculture was born. And God just shook his head.

Fortunately, there are creatures on the Earth still willing to teach Man about his roots, and at the same time save Man from his selfdestructive impulses. Enter Ishmael, a gorilla with a conscience. Yes, a gorilla. Caged and controlled by man, Ishmael developed a self-awareness of his situation and of man’s. Realizing that his destiny is intertwined with man’s, he decides to save man from himself. Placing an ad in the papers, Ishmael finds a willing if disillusioned student, and presents a course of education guaranteed to save the world. Makes one wonder if the sign in Ishmael’s office reads true, “With gorilla gone, will man survive?”

The pupil finds that all he has learned about history is a lie, created by power hungry men two thousand years ago intent on ruling the w…

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…If one does, one ends up fragmenting the entire food chain. Ecologically speaking, the Taker way of life was doomed from the beginning.

However, the reader experiences a sense of pleasure as Quinn points out that many of the primitive societies have a great deal of wisdom they can teach the world on how to live in a self-sustaining society. Of course, new ideas will mean that the paradigms of yesterday will have to be discarded. However, if innovative solutions to today’s ecological problems can be found, and the wisdom of ages is preserved, man has a shot at not committing cultural suicide. In trying to control all other life on the planet man has overstepped his bounds. In the end, man must realize that he is interconnected to all other life on Earth. Just consider, for a moment, the reverse side of Ishmael’s office sign. “With man gone, will gorilla survive?”

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle – Chicago Will Be Ours

The Jungle – Chicago Will Be Ours

“Their home! Their home! They had lost it! Grief, despair, rage, overwhelmed him – what was any imagination of the thing to this heart-breaking, crush reality of it … Only think what he had suffered for that house – what miseries they had all suffered for that house – the price they had paid for it!”

“The Jungle”, by Upton Sinclair, gives a heart breaking portrayal of the hardships faced by the countless poverty stricken laborers in the slaughter houses of Chicago. As in the quote above, a struggling family underwent months of back breaking labor only to loose their house at the drop of a hat. It was a desperate and unmerciful time when an accidentally fractured ankle cost a man his job and his family food and shelter.

In the early 1900’s, strikes, riots, labor unions, and new political parties arose across the country. The government, with its laissez-faire attitude, allowed business to consolidate into trusts, and with lack of competition, into powerful monopolies. These multi-million dollar monopolies were able to exploit every opportunity to make greater fortunes regardless of human consequences. Sinclair illustrates the harsh conditions in Packingtown through a Lithuanian immigrant family and their struggles to survive. Ona, a young and frail woman, and Jurgis, a hardworking and strong man and the husband of Ona, come to America with some of their family to find work and to make a new and better life for themselves. With everyone finding employment right away, the family begins their lives in America with optimism, enthusiasm, and ignorance. Taking a huge risk, they purchase a small rickety house. Slowly, they awaken to the harsh realities of their surroundings. There’s the mortg…

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…workingman is common ownership and democratic management of production. Schliemann, a socialist, explains that “anyone would be able to support himself by an hour’s work a day.” Sinclair goes even further by referring to socialism as the “new religion of humanity” to oppose the “jungle” in which the workingman slaves. Finally, Sinclair tries to convert his readers to socialism and reject capitalism by using numbers. At the end of the novel, he shows the increasing popularity of socialism as the number of votes increase. In Chicago, the number of votes for socialism started at next to nothing and, by the end of the book, there were nearly fifty thousand votes. Leaving the reader with a sense of optimism that socialism may one day triumph, Sinclair ends the novel with hope for the workingman as he zealously writes, “Chicago will be ours! Chicago will be ours!”

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