Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ishmael clarifies that he hasn’t suffered from Ishmael Leseur’s Syndrome his entire life. It only showed up when he started secondary school at St. Daniel’s Boys School. The previous seven years at Moorfield Primary were idyllic, but then everyone went to different secondary schools. Then, to make things worse, his homeroom teacher commented that Ishmael’s name was “interesting.” And Barry Bagsley exhibited “disturbing behavior” later when he asked, “Ishmael? What kind of a wussy-crap name is that?”
It's interesting that Ishmael didn’t start feeling the full effects of his name until transitioning out of primary school—that is, transitioning away from childhood and into his teenage years. This again suggests that it might not just be Ishmael who’s suffering. Many kids find this transition difficult. Barry’s comment shows that one of the reasons Ishmael struggles is because he's a bullying victim.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Up to that point, Ishmael didn’t know his name was a “wussy-crap” name. Were his parents and Herman Melville aware of this fact? Following this, Ishmael started to feel self-conscious and like “a kid with a wussy-crap name.” And the next day, Barry called him Fishtail Le Sewer, and things went downhill from there. Barry now calls Ishmael things like Piss-stale, Stalepiss, and Female, and has turned his last name into things like Le Pooer and Manure.
Ishmael doesn’t even consider that Barry could be wrong. Instead, Ishmael assumes that Barry must be right—and his parents and Herman Melville, either unwittingly or on purpose, gave him a terrible name. In this instance, Ishmael is giving away some of his control. And this shows how bullies like Barry gain power, since it seems not to occur to Ishmael to reject Barry’s assessment.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon