Ishmael is an interesting story that begins when the narrator sees an ad for a teacher. Not only is the ad for a teacher, but one that only seeks students whom have a desire to save the world. When he does finally respond to the ad and meets the teacher in person, he realizes his teacher is in fact a gorilla. Communicating telepathically with the gorilla, the narrator hears of Ishmael and his past of captivity.
After hearing the impressing story of Ishmael, the narrator accepts him as a teacher returning to his office to be taught more. As the story continues, Ishmael and the narrator discuss how the world came to be what it is today. The book Ishmael contains themes of captivity, identity, evolution, food, religion, goodness of men, civilization, and mother culture.
When Ishmael first meets the narrator, he tells him his life story so that the narrator would consider him as a teacher. Ishmael was taken from his home in the wild and put in captivity to be displayed in an exhibition. From being held in captivity, it’s due to that reason that Ishmael believes that he can teach the narrator about captivity. What surprises the readers is that Ishmael doesn’t hold resentment or anger towards the people he called his captors.
Instead he feels a sense of sadness and pity of them due to the fact that these men are also held captive. He shows readers that he believes that is captors are held by mother culture, which creates limitation for people. It’s for that reason he believes that his captors or people in general are in the same position as him and deserves sadness and pity.
Identity is another theme that is found in the book Ishmael. This ends becoming an important theme as Ishmael explains his first given name, which was Goliath. When he was first given the name Goliath, Ishmael felt that individual identity was important and valuable. It wasn’t until his name became Ishmael when he truly learned how a name could force an identity on someone. Rather than accepting the identity people are given, Ishmael says to question it.
Rather than forcing oneself to accept ones identity, a person should be able to decide if they truly accept what they are given (Karl, 6). It’s for that same reason that Ishmael believes that social labels in people can be misleading and mundane things such as names can be troublesome. He believes this because names are just a different way Mother Culture is holding people captive within society.
Evolution is another theme present in the book Ishmael. Ishmael in the book teachers the narrator that he believes that evolution has stopped because of mankind.
He believes that before mankind controlled the food supply and relied solely on resources, evolution occurred. It occurred because the people had to adapt to the world that was changing around them. If they hadn’t adapted in the fast changing world, they would have been able to survive. Unfortunately, mankind has control of the food supply meaning that people have no need to change.
They don’t feel that they have to adapt to the environment meaning that no evolution occurs. Since there isn’t evolution occurring in mankind, Ishmael feels worried about the future of the population. If no one is evolving, it could mean a disaster for the population on the planet leaving the narrator with much to think in terms of the future of mankind.
Food is also another theme that is present in the book Ishmael. Ishmael teaches the narrator that food is vital to his lesson due to its affect on mankind. The writer shows that the theme of food has created quite a disruption in the world since population has risen and the way that food is distributed has changed. Before civilization existed, food was free and as much could be taken whenever mankind yearned for it.
This isn’t a surprise considering that in the wild, everyone could do what he or she needed to survive. Unfortunately, food now is under what the author calls a “totalitarian” system where food is being forced on the rest of the world. By disrupting the peace of agriculture and messing with the way that food was seen, the peace and harmony between food and the population is messed up. It’s for that same reason that Ishmael believes hunger exists.
Religion is another theme mentioned in the story. Not only that, it becomes a controversial issue that is discussed in terms of treatment. Religion in this book is seen as one that creates law and limitation on how to live as mankind. The author continues to face religion as a whole by attacking the prophets.
The author believes that the prophets make the humans believe certain rules for life making them completely ignore and bypass the important laws that are given to them by nature. Not only that, religion is also criticized for making mankind believe that they can do whatever they want in this world and blame others such as gods for their natural problems. Ishmael feels the same way because in the book he doesn’t take the Genesis seriously and thinks of the Genesis as a metaphor of life of mankind.
Another theme present in this story is the goodness of man as well as human supremacy. One of the main teachings of man in the beginning was that man is not perfect. In the book, the author argues that there shouldn’t be an idea that man is already flawed. Quinn blames this horrible thinking on religion, because religion teaches man to think that all is flawed. The author continues to attack religion and say that man should think of the goodness of mankind.
Rather than sticking to the notion that all mankind is flawed, the author believes that man should believe that there are no flaws. The story continues to say that man is no bad but the belief that mankind is flawed is the reasons as to why mankind acts destructive. He continues on to say that mankind simply needs to be educated about how to live their life rather than what people are generally taught. If mankind could learn properly, man can be able to live peacefully with the earth.
As for human supremacy, the author also attacks the idea of it as well. Humans are quite selfish and all-knowing to think that they can control and rule over other species. He argues that humans have evolved the most, but shouldn’t believe that they are entitled to feel above other species in the world. In fact, humans are not invincible and are also held captive under “peace keeping law” which creates competition and evolution. Mother Culture is also blamed for this thinking in human supremacy because when humans feel powerful over other species, destruction occurs on the planet. Rather than feeling high above other species, humans should give other species the opportunity to evolve and create a development in their lives (Wilkin 15).
Another themes present in this book are civilization. The author does well to show that creating civilization and becoming modern isn’t the best choices to make as people. He attacks the notion and says that the tribalism movement is one to consider. Rather than closing off agriculture and the community to modernize, the author believes in a non-class system and a close community. Ishmael wants readers to realize that people weren’t struggling pre civilization but living a happy life. Mankind before civilization was one fully of harmony, which should make readers question whether a modern civilization is truly the only way to live. It seems that the more modernization occurs, the more problems that come out as a result.
The last theme of the story holding an important role in mankind is Mother Culture. The idea of Mother Culture is defined as taker theory that personifies inside mankind as a result of colonizing and religion as well as education from others. In Ishmael, Mother Culture is defined as a process of brain washing that occurs from birth as well as objects such as television. The idea is that this Mother Culture is the driving force behind mankind that creates destruction of harmony ("Ishmael Summary Analysis” 3). It is seen as a powerful source behind mankind, which has gotten so bad, mankind has become enslaved. Ishmael teaches in the story that this is why he is teaching the narrator about captivity. As mankind, one has to see the nature that has held one captive to break free from such control.
In conclusion, the themes of Ishmael are ones that create a driving force in the thought of humanity and its captivity. The book does nothing but to attack the reader’s education in evolution and teaching of religion. While attacking what the readers’ views as only life in itself, the author creates a lot of questions for oneself and their future. Not only that, after reading this book, mankind’s captivity by Mother Culture is simply interesting. It’s as if all the things one were taught at birth is questioned and argued all throughout the book.
The book contained many themes and brought forwards arguments of identify and how one does not need to maintain the identity they were given. Food holds much power and destruction with agriculture set forth by mankind. When mankind controls food, evolution stops. Not only that, humans need to stop thinking that they can rule over other species and let them evolve. With that in mind, this book has been an amazing one to be given to read.