Don’t Call Me Ishmael


Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Scobie’s letter is typed. In it, he writes that he’s going to miss the debating finals. He explains he has tests every six months to make sure his brain tumor hasn’t come back. This most recent time, they found a “shadow” and need to do more tests and scans, but he’ll “probably” be fine. Scobie isn’t sure when he’ll be back to school and asks Ishmael to keep this to himself. In a postscript, Scobie acknowledges that Miss Tarango is right: a word like “probably” can do damage. When he’s done reading, Ishmael wonders if it’s true that Scobie isn’t afraid. What must it feel like to have to face all of this again? Compared to what Scobie is going through, Barry Bagsley seems like “a minor skin irritation.”
Scobie’s letter makes it clear that his brain tumor isn’t totally in the past; it’s something that still has the power to turn his life upside down at any time. Noting that “probably” can do damage acknowledges that “probably” leaves some room for the tumor to be something—Scobie’s cancer could be back. For Ishmael, this gives him the opportunity to develop empathy and to think more critically about his own situation. Is Barry really worth worrying about when Scobie could be seriously ill? Ishmael seems to conclude that he’s not.
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