Ishmael’s smile is huge as he watches Razza and Bill walk away. But it disappears when Barry appears behind him. Barry is clearly angry, but when he says that he knew Ishmael didn’t have the guts to go through with the speech, Ishmael doesn’t argue—they both know the truth. Ishmael tells Barry to leave Bill alone, but Barry just tells Ishmael that he won’t be able to hide next year. Ishmael insists he doesn’t want to hide.
Especially when Ishmael says he doesn’t have to speak here, since both he and Barry know the truth, it shows that Ishmael hasn’t just learned that language is powerful. He’s also learned the value in keeping silent—sometimes, he realizes, silence can be just as powerful as speaking. Ishmael’s confidence in this passage is palpable, which shows how much Ishmael has changed from the beginning of the novel.
As Ishmael and Barry stand and stare at each other, Mrs. Bagsley appears and kindly greets Ishmael. She makes Barry introduce her to his “friend.” Mrs. Bagsley says Ishmael’s name is lovely and unusual, and Ishmael leans into it. He explains that he’s named after the narrator of Moby-Dick. Then, Mrs. Bagsley catches sight of her husband. She says goodbye to Ishmael and suggests he come over sometime during the holidays. Seeing the horrified look on Barry’s face, Ishmael says he’d love to. Once Mrs. Bagsley walks away, Barry points at Ishmael and says, “Next year.” Ishmael says he’ll be there.
Again, it’s clear how much Ishmael has changed when he brings up Moby-Dick unprompted. He now sees the novel as part of his identity and a cool aside to pull out to impress people. Ishmael also looks like he’s learned to relax and take things in stride: telling Mrs. Bagsley he’d love to come visit shows that Ishmael can roll with the punches and say what he needs to in order to get what he wants out of a situation.