Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Two weeks later, Ishmael and his teammates are locked in a classroom at Churchill Grammar. Finally, they get their topic and Ishmael reads it aloud: “That science-fiction and fantasy films have little relevance to the problems facing today’s world.” Ignatius leaps on it and says that fantasy is just a way to escape real problems, but Ishmael reminds him that they’re the negative team. They have to prove that fantasy is relevant. Ignatius writes “WE’RE STUFFED” on a sheet of paper.
Given that Ignatius doesn’t like to think creatively, it’s no surprise that he can’t come up with a single reason that fantasy is relevant. But fantasy is Bill’s area of expertise—so the team might have some hope yet. The fact that no one has caught onto this fact yet shows that the boys are still underestimating Bill and don’t see him as a valuable friend and teammate yet.
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Bill says that actually, science fiction and fantasy are relevant, since those films talk about the issues the world could experience in the future if they don’t deal with the problems they have now. He gives a number of examples, but he stops short when he realizes everyone else is staring at him. And surprisingly, Bill is making sense. Ishmael asks what Bill thinks of Harry Potter, and Bill gives a reasoned argument about how Harry Potter is about standing up to evil and coping with bullying. Ishmael frantically writes everything down and encourages Razza and Ignatius to keep asking Bill questions.
Finally, Bill has an opportunity to grow and show that he’s not a useless, unintelligent warm body on the team. Like the other boys, he has thoughts and feelings—and unlike Ignatius, he’s capable of thinking critically and creatively. Noting that Harry Potter is about bullying draws connections between that series and this novel, as bullying is such a huge concern for Ishmael. Ishmael can, Bill suggests, learn some lessons from this fantasy series.
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This continues for the next 20 minutes. Ishmael then has enough written to formulate their arguments. But the question now is who’s speaking, and in what order. Ignatius says that this isn’t his topic. He thinks Ishmael should speak first, then Razza, and then Bill. Razza insists that Bill can’t rebut, but Ishmael agrees with Ignatius: he knows the case, Razza is good at going second, and Bill just spent the last 20 minutes rebutting. Razza argues and asks if Bill really understands what’s going on here. Bill says he does—this is a bit of quest, and maybe they’re part of a fellowship. Razza puts his hand on Bill’s shoulder and says he’s in.
In this moment, the team finally starts to come together and work like a team. Ignatius realizes he’s out of his depth, but he doesn’t just bow out—he shows that he knows where his teammates’ strengths are by offering this speaking order. Ishmael adds his support to Ignatius’s by agreeing with him, and also by agreeing to speak first despite his fear of public speaking. Razza is the final holdout, and he’s been rude to Bill in the past. But ultimately, Razza chooses to respect Bill and see him as a friend and a teammate.
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