Ishmael

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Walter Sokolow Character Analysis

A Jewish man who travels to the United States in the 1930s, loses his entire family to the Holocaust, and purchases Ishmael to serve as a strange, surrogate family. Mr. Sokolow is the first to give Ishmael his name, setting in motion Ishmael’s discovery of language and communication. Sokolow teaches Ishmael to speak, and, when Ishmael’s intellect begins to outstrip his own, becomes his research assistant. Mr. Sokolow is Rachel’s father and Grace Sokolow’s husband.
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Walter Sokolow Character Timeline in Ishmael

The timeline below shows where the character Walter Sokolow appears in Ishmael. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
The novel begins with a description of a newspaper ad. The narrator , who is never named, is drinking coffee and eating breakfast one morning when he... (full context)
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The narrator remembers his own experiences searching for a teacher—experiences which contributed to his hatred of earnest... (full context)
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The narrator goes to visit the teacher, confident that he must be running a scam. When he... (full context)
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The narrator feels an inexplicable desire to sit in the room a little longer. Turning to look... (full context)
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Ishmael later discovered that the old man’s name was Walter Sokolow. Sokolow was a wealthy Jewish man who had lost his entire family to the Holocaust... (full context)
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After only a few weeks, it became clear to Sokolow that Ishmael was highly intelligent. Sokolow was talking to himself, mourning the loss of his... (full context)
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It was during the 1960s that Sokolow fell in love with a woman twenty years his junior. Eventually, Sokolow resolved to marry... (full context)
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After Rachel was born, Sokolow proposed that Ishmael be her mentor and tutor. Ishmael was delighted with this proposal, and... (full context)
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When Sokolow died in 1985, Rachel became Ishmael’s benefactor. She moved Ishmael to a “retreat,” where Ishmael... (full context)
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The narrator , who has been listening all this time, asks Ishmael if he has taught many... (full context)
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The narrator leaves the building and thinks about everything he’s witnessed that day. Everyone in his life... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...“Leavers.” These two groups correspond to the “civilized” and the “primitive” peoples of the world. The narrator objects that it’s too facile to divide the world into only two categories, but Ishmael... (full context)
Chapter 3
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The narrator reluctantly begins talking into the tape recorder. The universe, he says, began either with the... (full context)
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The narrator sees what Ishmael is getting at with his story: his culture sees the emergence of... (full context)
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...is a way of diverting the blame for all the evil things that humans do. The narrator sees Ishmael’s point: people can blame all their evil on the fact that the world... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The narrator begins his story of culture by observing that for thousands of years, man didn’t know... (full context)
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...in order to survive. Thus, in order to prosper, humans had to “conquer” the world. The narrator is amazed when he realizes how pervasive this idea is in his society: he’s always... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The narrator uses the tape recorder to record his idea of the end of the story of... (full context)
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...that human beings are fundamentally flawed, and that they’ll never know how to live correctly. The narrator points out that these two points are one and the same. The fundamental flaw with... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The narrator arrives at Ishmael’s building the next day. Ishmael seems amused with the narrator, who is... (full context)
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
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...that humans must look for the laws of how to live by studying life itself. The narrator interprets this to mean that humans should study only human life—an interpretation that Ishmael sarcastically... (full context)
Chapter 8
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The narrator takes four days to find the law of the community of life. He walks into... (full context)
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The narrator goes on. The second thing that only Takers do is systematically destroy rivals’ food in... (full context)
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The narrator thinks of something else—agriculture breaks the laws of life by waging war on rival life... (full context)
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The narrator raises an objection to the laws of nature that he and Ishmael have been discussing—he... (full context)
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The narrator suggests that birth control might be used to fight the problem of population growth. Ishmael... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...original purpose of the story was to explain why the Takers left the Leavers behind. The narrator says he can’t imagine what Ishmael is talking about. Ishmael seems annoyed, and says that... (full context)
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The narrator has been listening to Ishmael’s story, fascinated. He notices a Bible sitting on a shelf... (full context)
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The narrator suggests that the “mark of Cain” refers to the white, pale faces of the victorious... (full context)
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The narrator asks Ishmael where Eve figures in to the story of the Fall. Ishmael replies that... (full context)
Chapter 10
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The narrator returns to Ishmael’s building after nearly a week away, and is surprised to find workers... (full context)
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Determined to find Ishmael, the narrator looks through the phone book for the last name “Sokolow.” He finds the address for a Grace Sokolow, which he traces to a magnificent mansion... (full context)
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...why he didn’t try to avoid his eviction notice—Ishmael must have been forewarned of Mrs. Sokolow’s death. Ishmael says nothing. The narrator asks Ishmael if Ishmael is angry. Ishmael tells the... (full context)
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The narrator , relieved to be talking to Ishmael once again, asks Ishmael how they’ll communicate from... (full context)
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The narrator has dinner and a drink at a nearby restaurant. He returns to the carnival around... (full context)
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The narrator asks Ishmael, point-blank, what the next lesson will be. In response, Ishmael asks the narrator... (full context)
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The narrator has a thought that he finds difficult to put into words. The Leavers, he now... (full context)
Chapter 11
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The narrator brings up an image of “primitive man” that just popped into his head. In the... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The narrator is not satisfied with the example of the Soviet Union. He asks Ishmael for a... (full context)
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...blacks are as powerful as whites within the prison—rather, it’s to destroy the prison itself. The narrator agrees, but thinks that this will never happen. Women don’t want to destroy the prison... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The narrator is in the process of finalizing a plan, though he doesn’t immediately say what this... (full context)
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The narrator drives back to his home, and then calls the Sokolow household. Partridge, the butler, answers the phone. The narrator informs him that Ishmael is dead,... (full context)
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The narrator looks over Ishmael’s books and papers, and notices the poster saying, “WITH MAN GONE, WILL... (full context)