Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Miss Tarango won her battle with Barry, but Ishmael’s battle isn’t over. Things are worse now that Miss Tarango has introduced Barry to Moby-Dick; now, Barry’s cruel names are whale themed. In Miss Tarango’s class, he’s harmless—all Miss Tarango has to do is invite him to sit in her chair, and he stops acting out. But this means Barry needs an easier target, like Ishmael. In addition to butchering Ishmael’s name, Barry also takes to hiding Ishmael’s possessions, writing crude comments on Ishmael’s homework, leaving food in Ishmael’s bag or locker, and shoving Ishmael whenever possible.
Miss Tarango might have created peace in her own classroom. But Barry still has passing periods and other classes where he can torment his victims without fearing getting in trouble. And note that Barry seems to understand the power of language on some level, as one of his favorite methods of torturing Ishmael is to butcher Ishmael’s name. He, of course, combines this with physical violence like shoving, but much of his violence is verbal.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Ishmael knows readers are probably wondering why he doesn’t stand up for himself—but what would they suggest he do? Threaten to let Dad tell Barry the story of how Ishmael got his name? Flatter Barry by suggesting he take up singing and make lots of people miserable? Bribe him with pocket change? Ishmael could always beg for Barry to leave him alone. He considers doing all of these things, but you can’t reason with Barry. So Ishmael does nothing but tell himself that if he ever does take Barry on, he’d be stooping to Barry’s level. Really, though, Ishmael is just too afraid of what might happen if he stands up for himself. Once, though, he kind of stands up to Barry.
For the most part, Ishmael doesn’t acknowledge that he might have more power than he thinks to stand up to Barry. While Ishmael sees Dad’s storytelling as torturous, hearing the story would no doubt just give Barry more ammunition to use to torment Ishmael. Part of the reason Ishmael doesn’t stand up to Barry is that he seems to believe that defending himself would mean becoming a bully himself. There are, of course, a lot of things Ishmael can do that wouldn’t be bullying—for instance, going to someone like Miss Tarango for help.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon