Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ishmael needs to tell the truth: he’s 14 years old and suffers from Ishmael Leseur’s syndrome, which is incurable. His is the only known case of the syndrome. He tried, for a while, to believe it’s not a real thing, but now it’s unavoidable. To explain, Ishmael says his name is Ishmael Leseur—and yes, that’s the name of the syndrome. The name, though, is the syndrome.
Though it’s a bit convoluted, Ishmael is introducing the idea that he hates his name and blames it for all his problems. Coming up with this “syndrome” is a way for Ishmael to make sense of whatever problems he faces, and it’s a humorous way to convey these problems to the reader.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
None of Ishmael’s family members—Dad, Mom, or his sister Prue—suffer from the syndrome. Prue, in fact, is “adorable” and almost a genius. So Ishmael’s name must somehow produce a virus that causes the afflicted person to do the most embarrassing things. And he knows who’s responsible: his parents. He might be able to forgive them if they hadn’t been laughing so hard when they gave Ishmael his name.
Part of becoming a parent to a brand-new infant is, of course, getting to name the new addition. So Ishmael suggests that he feels his parents abused their power as parents by saddling him with a name like Ishmael—and to make matters worse, acting as though his name is a joke.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon