Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After the bug incident, Barry’s reputation tanks. He’s banned from sports for two Saturdays and gets detention for a week. The Year Ten boy, Jeremy Gainsborough, is punished too. He apologizes to Scobie—and a week later, Scobie gives Jeremy a new massive stick insect. Rumor has it that Brother Jerome threatened Barry that this is the last straw, so when Barry returns to class, he’s sullen. Ishmael thinks of him as the T-rex at the beginning of Jurassic Park, trapped behind an electric fence. He figures someone will turn the power off eventually, but it seems like he's temporarily under control.
It's no doubt a boon for Scobie’s reputation when he replaces Jeremy’s stick insect following Jeremy’s apology. This marks Scobie as someone who doesn’t hold grudges, at least when people apologize. When Ishmael refers to Barry as the T-rex from Jurassic Park, it does suggest to readers that at some point in the novel, Barry will break out of his proverbial electric fence. But for now, Ishmael will be free from Barry’s taunting for a while.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Scobie, on the other hand, becomes a hero. Weeks after the incident, just before one of the Thursday assemblies, Ishmael realizes that Scobie isn’t still with him. He nervously tells Miss Tarango that he doesn’t know where Scobie went, and she points to the front of the hall. Mr. Barker tells the boys to be quiet and the assembly begins. After the usual speeches by Brother Jerome and Mr. Barker, the school captain tries to rev everyone up for the big football game on Saturday against Churchill Boys Grammar. It’s an important game; this is St. Daniel’s enemy school and if they win, Churchill won’t be the undefeated champions of the season.
It's unclear why Ishmael is so concerned that he lost Scobie—he may be concerned for Scobie, or he may be concerned for himself without Scobie’s protection. If it’s the latter, this would illustrate how much Ishmael is getting out of his friendship with Scobie. With Scobie to fend off Barry, Ishmael can feel more secure at school. The football game is framed as a unifying concern for the student body, suggesting that the boys, regardless of their differences, can all get behind supporting the team.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Finally, Mr. Barker calls Scobie to speak—about debating. People groan. Scobie takes the mic, stares at his classmates, and then begins to recite from Hamlet: “What is a man, If the chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more!” Everyone stares. Scobie says that if they don’t use their minds, they’ll just eat and sleep. St. Daniel’s is great at sports, but they must also engage their minds by putting together debate teams. Scobie says that debating isn’t for “wimps”—more people fear public speaking than dying, after all. He invites any “courageous” boys to join him.
Given the way the student body groans when Scobie introduces debating, it seems like many boys at school think debating is for “wimps.” It’s just talking, after all—and compared to the physicality of football, that’s not very exciting. Moving directly from talk about football to debating puts the two activities in direct contrast to each other. And this also encapsulates one of the novel’s central conflicts: whether language or physical activity is more powerful.
Themes
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Then, Scobie recites a poem he wrote to get everyone ready for the game this weekend. When he’s done, everyone is silent—and then whoops and cheers break out. Mr. Hardcastle, the sports master and coach, asks for a copy to use to intimidate “those Churchill girls.” He also asks Scobie to come to the game. Scobie agrees and asks Ishmael to come with him.
The success of Scobie’s poem to excite everyone shows that language is powerful—even the boys who thought debating (and language) was for “wimps” seem to get excited about it. And asking Scobie to come to the game to help intimidate Churchill’s players shows that even someone entrenched in sports, like Mr. Hardcastle, recognizes that language has its place and its uses.
Themes
The Power of Language Theme Icon
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