Ishmael Character Essay: Transformation of Narrator
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When you were a child, did you ever have a dream, that you seemed to give up on as an adult? Ishmael is the story of a desperate young man, who finds a teacher in the form of a telepathic gorilla named Ishmael. Ishmael tells the story of their meeting, chronicles the stories Ishmael tells the narrator, and about how Ishmael is trying to impact and change the way somebody views the world through his teachings. To find a student Ishmael puts an ad in the personals saying “Teacher seeking student . Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” He goes to the apartment where Ishmael lives, and so starts their journey together, and also the narrators own journey of change. Throughout the book the narrator becomes able to link things back to each other and apply things he has learned previously to the things they would currently be discussing , and changes the way he answers questions from impulsive and no thought to more thoughtful and deeper then just a surface answer.
In the beginning of the book, the narrator refuses to believe anything that doesnt seem logically sound, and doesnt give any thought to the answers he produces for Ishmael when they first meet. When the narrator first walks into Ishmaels apartment he sees a sign that says, “With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?” He thinks the words “cease to be ambiguous.” (pg 9). The way the narrator thinks like this shows that hes looking for very straight forward answers that arent necessarily open to interpretation. When he also realizes that Ishmael is the teacher he is absolutely dumbfounded. (Most people would be if a gorilla started telepathically speaking to them.) Even on the first day of lessons, once the narrator gets past his initial shock, he becomes eager to learn.
“Finally I asked a question” (pg 24), those 5 words, just after meeting Ishmael show that the narrator might have some interest in learning and is slowly becoming more open because he shows interest in what Ishmael is saying. Each day of lessons, they tend to talk about one subject, or one group of things. After the first day the narrator is unsure if he wants to return, but does the next day despite his feelings of iffy-ness and disbelief. “The next morning I woke and thought: Even so it could be a dream.”(pg 29).
Towards the middle of the book, the narrator most definitely shows that he has become more open to thinking about things in a critical manner, and displays a change in his own thoughts and ideas. One of the first assignments Ishmael gives to the narrator is to find the law that all creatures have been living by since the beginning of time. It takes him four days, to figure out, but the first thing he says to Ishmael when he sees him is, “I think I see why you insisted I do this myself. If you had done the work for me…I would have said, well sure, so what, big deal?” (pg 126) He took his time thinking about what Ishmael wanted, and even liked the idea that Ishmael didnt just give him an answer. He understands that he needs to find the answers out for himself and that in life the answers arent always just there in front of you.
Also in the middle of the book, we see the narrator look forward to learning things from Ishmael, and applying them to things