Don’t Call Me Ishmael


Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Ishmael feels unstoppable. He races out of the school, across the football field, and out to the sports fields, where he throws himself in the grass and rolls around. When Ishmael catches his breath, he reads the letter again. The last line leaps out at him. And rather than resenting it, Ishmael lets out “the mother of all wild, barbaric yawps” and feels suddenly whole again. The weirdest thing is that Ishmael feels inexplicably like he’s floating on the ocean, just like a certain someone. He asks the reader to call him Ishmael if they want; after all, as Razza would say, Ishmael is “da man.”
Ishmael is, of course, thrilled because Kelly clearly likes him and wants to hang out again. But Kelly also shows Ishmael that he can learn to love his name and his identity by reframing his relationship to Moby-Dick. Indeed, Ishmael’s observation that he feels like he's floating on the ocean is a nod to the final scene of Moby-Dick, when Ishmael is the only living person floating on the ocean. Now, Ishmael doesn’t resent Moby-Dick and how it’s shaped his life. Rather, the novel has helped shape Ishmael into who he is today—just as his friends have.
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