Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ishmael only has a few classes with Barry, though he also has to avoid him at morning tea and lunch. During morning tea, Barry calls Ishmael “Barbie Bimbo’s pet student, Fish-whale Le Dick.” Ishmael ignores Barry and his friends as they continue to make fun of Ishmael’s name. Later, in English with Miss Tarango, Ishmael is intrigued when Miss Tarango insists that language can empower people. Maybe Ishmael can drop a dictionary on Barry.
A lot of Barry’s bullying, Ishmael implies, takes place during passing periods—times when there aren’t as many adults around to see the bullying. Teachers, this suggests, just might not be aware there’s as much bullying going on as there is. Ishmael is then thinking very literally about how language might be powerful. He implies that the most powerful thing is brute force and physical violence.
Themes
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Then, Miss Tarango hands out sheets of paper asking for five “amazing” facts from each student. Ishmael’s five facts are that Prue is a genius, Dad played in a band, Mom is on the city council, Ishmael used to faint during the service when he was an altar boy, and he hates his name.
Notice that three of Ishmael’s facts aren’t even about him—and the two that are don’t paint Ishmael in a very good light. This offers insight into how Ishmael sees himself. Ishmael believes he’ll constantly be overshadowed by others, and that he’s destined to fail.
Themes
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Barry grows gradually more confident during class until, finally, Miss Tarango asks Barry to bring up his five facts and stop talking to other kids. She studies his list for a long time with no expression. Then, she locks her eyes on Barry and announces that they have one more activity before lunch—and she needs a volunteer.
Readers never learn what Barry wrote, but it seems reasonable to assume that he wrote something rude. This shows again how secure Barry feels in his power. To him, even Miss Tarango—a teacher, who should be an authority figure—is someone to bully.
Themes
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon