Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
On the last day of first term, Ishmael is headed home on the path by the playing fields. Normally, Ishmael can easily avoid Barry after school. But today, Ishmael steps onto the path and sees Barry and his cronies ahead. All he has to do is take the long way home—but then he sees a little boy from Moorfield Primary with Barry. Ishmael realizes Barry and his friends have the little boy’s hat, and the boy is crying. Ishmael knows it’d be best to run away. But he knows that if he does, he won’t be able to live with himself. So he heads down the path, terrified.
For Ishmael, it’s one thing to be Barry’s victim. That’s something he can deal with, though it’s upsetting. But Ishmael can’t stand the thought of leaving some poor little boy to deal with Barry on his own. With this realization, Ishmael acknowledges that while it doesn’t always seem worth it to stand up for oneself, it is worth it to stand up and protect others. 
Themes
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Related Quotes
When Barry and Danny Wallace invite Ishmael to play catch with them, Ishmael suggests they give the boy back his hat. Barry invites Ishmael to take the hat from them. Ishmael knows he can’t do anything; he doesn’t have superpowers. So Ishmael tells Barry again to give the hat back. Barry promises to give the boy his hat back if Ishmael hands over his own. Ishmael knows Barry won’t follow through, but he hands over his hat anyway. Barry, Danny, and Doug toss the hats around while Ishmael and the Moorfield boy watch.
Ishmael is acutely aware of the power dynamic here. He and the boy are weak in comparison to Barry’s gang. So Ishmael decides that his only course of action is to play along with what Barry wants and hope for the best. Ishmael may not think he’s doing something noble here, but he’s still showing the boy that the boy isn’t alone: people will help him.
Themes
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Friendship Theme Icon
Finally, Barry says this is boring and tosses both hats into the nearby creek. He leads his friends away. Ishmael and the Moorfield boy creep down the bank to rescue their hats. On their way back up the bank, Ishmael jokes that he showed Barry—and he kept his temper while he did it. He usually turns green, but he’s just finished an anger management course. This makes the boy smile. Ishmael introduces himself and tells the boy—Marty—to not worry about Barry and his friends; they “haven’t got enough brains to even appreciate how stupid they are.” Ishmael notes that the reader probably thinks he’d be proud of himself for standing up to Barry. But all Ishmael can think of is that he’d really like to punch Barry.
Ishmael might not be totally aware of what happened here, but he essentially showed Marty that the way to deal with Barry is to be as unemotional as possible. For Barry, the point of stealing Marty’s hat was to make Marty cry and try to get it back—so encouraging Marty to just sit back and watch doesn’t feel like much, but it transformed what Barry was doing from a game into something boring. But Ishmael doesn’t see this. His anger is rising, and he’d still like to take his anger out on Barry physically someday. 
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
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