Don’t Call Me Ishmael

by

Michael Gerard Bauer

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James Scobie Character Analysis

Scobie is a boy who joins Ishmael’s Year Nine class at the beginning of second term. Ishmael immediately identifies him as someone who will be Barry’s favorite bullying target: Scobie wears his hair parted and perfectly combed, pulls his shorts up as high as they’ll go, and turns his socks down to match perfectly. But what really marks him as a target is the fact that he has a facial tic, where his mouth regularly twists to one side and then the other while his nose wiggles and his eyes widen. Despite his extremely unimposing appearance, Scobie turns out to be a fair opponent for Barry almost immediately. Scobie is smart and sharp-witted, so he’s easily able to insult Barry. But for Ishmael, the most impressive thing about Scobie is his insistence that he can’t feel fear. Scobie had a brain tumor removed about a year before the novel begins, and he believes that the operation damaged the part of his brain that makes him feel fear. This, Scobie explains to Barry, is why he isn’t afraid of Barry and never will be. This quality earns Scobie Ishmael’s respect instantly, and the two become friends. Scobie consistently impresses Ishmael, as when Scobie has the confidence to start debating teams at St. Daniel’s and when Scobie writes and recites a stirring poem urging the St. Daniel’s football team to fight hard in the game against Churchill Grammar. Scobie is able to convince Ishmael to join the debating team despite Ishmael’s crushing fear of public speaking, and against all odds, Scobie whips the team into shape such that they win their first three debates. Ishmael is distraught when Scobie is pulled out of school for months to undergo testing; a recent brain scan found a “shadow,” and it’s possible the tumor has come back. But Ishmael continues to think often of Scobie and use him as inspiration to overcome his own fears. Ultimately, further testing finds nothing, and Scobie plans to return to school the following year.

James Scobie Quotes in Don’t Call Me Ishmael

The Don’t Call Me Ishmael quotes below are all either spoken by James Scobie or refer to James Scobie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Greenwillow Books edition of Don’t Call Me Ishmael published in 2007.
Chapter 4 Quotes

And if it hadn’t been my terrible fate to end up as Ishmael Leseur, then none of the disasters of my life would have happened and today I would be a happy normal teenager, like everyone else my age.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Bill Kingsley, Ignatius Prindabel, James Scobie
Related Symbols: Moby-Dick
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

The class stared at James Scobie. Something wasn’t right here. This wasn’t the way things went. When Barry Bagsley threatened you, you backed down. That’s just the way it was; the way it had always been. You couldn’t just go changing things—just doing what you want. The whole room was one big furrowed brow. Something was happening here—we just weren’t quite sure what it was.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), James Scobie, Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

As for Barry Bagsley, rumor had it that Brother Jerome had given him the “last warning” speech. In any case, when he finally returned to class, he was as sullen as a caged animal, a bit like the T-rex at the beginning of Jurassic Park, trapped inside that steel enclosure with a zillion volts of electricity zinging through the wires (which was fine by me). The only trouble was, I kept thinking that when you watch a movie like that, you just know that eventually, for some reason or another, someone or something will turn the electricity off.

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Barry Bagsley, James Scobie, Brother Jerome
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

“Now, some of you may feel that debating is for wimps. I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Research shows that most people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. Debating is not for wimps. It’s for boys with courage. That’s right, courage—the courage and commitment to stand up and perform under pressure.”

Related Characters: James Scobie (speaker), Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

Even though we had improved from last time, the difference again was Scobie. It was like having Michael Phelps swimming the final leg for you in the under-seven floaties relay. As long as we could keep the opposition vaguely in sight, we knew that Scobie would reel them in and eat them up.

Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 27 Quotes

“Sort of…the tumor, the operation…they’re true. The other thing…not being afraid…Well, it depends on how you look at it. Maybe it wasn’t a scalpel that did it. Maybe…when you’re lying in an operating room and someone is cutting into your brain…and you don’t know whether you’re going to…”

For a few seconds all I could hear was Scobie breathing. When he continued, it was almost in a whisper.

“Well…maybe there’s just so much fear you can have…and in that one moment you use up all the fear you were ever supposed to feel…and it’s the fear that cuts you…and it cuts you so deep that you decide that nothing else is worth being afraid of…and that nothing is going to scare you anymore…because you just won’t let it.”

Related Characters: James Scobie (speaker), Ishmael Leseur, Barry Bagsley
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 40 Quotes

And then it happened. Kelly Faulkner laughed, and her beautiful pale eyes melted my heart like ice cream in a microwave till all that remained was an awful empty feeling. That’s when I knew. Nothing would happen between us. I’d been kidding myself. It just wasn’t possible for eyes as beautiful as that to see anyone as ordinary as me. For the first time, I didn’t feel like a nervous wreck in Kelly Faulkner’s presence. What did I have to worry about?

Related Characters: Ishmael Leseur (speaker), Kelly Faulkner, James Scobie
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
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Don’t Call Me Ishmael PDF

James Scobie Character Timeline in Don’t Call Me Ishmael

The timeline below shows where the character James Scobie appears in Don’t Call Me Ishmael. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...new boy arrives at St. Daniel’s at the start of second term. Miss Tarango introduces James Scobie to the homeroom class and, in a tone that demands the boys obey, says... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The first time James’s face does this, a few boys laugh. Miss Tarango scans the room with a hard... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Once James is seated, he carefully takes out his planner and several pens and painstakingly arranges them... (full context)
Chapter 13
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...class is leaving homeroom, Barry compliments Ishmael on his new girlfriend and shoves Ishmael’s shoulder. James Scobie watches Barry leave and asks if Barry is a friend. Ishmael says no, which... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...wrong with the guy; he’s just very big and very into sci-fi and fantasy. Fortunately, James tells Ishmael they don’t have to sit together. James takes the desk in the middle... (full context)
Chapter 14
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Minutes later, a wad of paper bounces off of James Scobie’s desk. The second wad hits him in the head, and Barry asks if it’s... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Barry throws a huge ball of paper at James, knocking James’s glasses askew. He asks if Le Sewer stinks, or if James “just shat... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The class stares. This isn’t what happens when Barry threatens someone. Barry tells James to run along, but James says he’s not afraid of Barry. When Barry asks why... (full context)
Chapter 15
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Barry’s cronies hoot with laughter and Barry accuses James of lying. But Ishmael notices that it seems like James is telling the truth: he... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Barry’s patience is wearing thin. He taps James’s chest and reminds James that he could snap him in half. Calmly, James says Barry... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
James says that soon after the tumor was removed, he realized he couldn’t feel fear. The... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
As Barry counts, James praises him for being able to count to five without help. Mr. Barker walks in... (full context)
Chapter 16
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Barry leaves Scobie alone for the rest of the week, but Ishmael can tell that something is up.... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Then, when Ishmael gets to homeroom late, Doug is sitting on Scobie’s desk and talking to Danny. These two are seldom in class, so this is concerning.... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Moments later, Scobie and Barry walk in. Scobie gives Ishmael a nod, sits at his desk, and unpacks... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
...terrifying. After retreating to the far corner of the room, he looks back to where Scobie is sitting motionless, his hands still on the desk lid. Then, finally, Scobie puts his... (full context)
Chapter 17
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...for the boys to tell him who did this, he stops short and shouts at Scobie to get the tarantula off his face. Calmly, Scobie says it’s a harmless Mexican bird-eating... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Mr. Barker asks where the insects and spiders came from. Scobie says they came from his desk, but they’re not his and he doesn’t know how... (full context)
Chapter 18
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...for a week. The Year Ten boy, Jeremy Gainsborough, is punished too. He apologizes to Scobie—and a week later, Scobie gives Jeremy a new massive stick insect. Rumor has it that... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Scobie, on the other hand, becomes a hero. Weeks after the incident, just before one of... (full context)
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The Power of Language Theme Icon
Finally, Mr. Barker calls Scobie to speak—about debating. People groan. Scobie takes the mic, stares at his classmates, and then... (full context)
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Then, Scobie recites a poem he wrote to get everyone ready for the game this weekend. When... (full context)
Chapter 19
The Power of Language Theme Icon
When Scobie and Ishmael get to the stadium, Mr. Hardcastle seats them behind the St. Daniel’s bench.... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...left, St. Daniel’s lines up for what Ishmael knows will be a pass to Peter. Scobie stands up and starts shouting lines from his poem—and Peter takes off. He and Frankie... (full context)
Chapter 20
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
On Monday, Scobie casually tells Ishmael that he’s put Ishmael’s name down for the Year Nine debating team.... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Ishmael says he can’t do it, so Scobie asks if Ishmael would do it if he didn’t have to speak. This is an... (full context)
Chapter 21
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...few people respond from years Ten, Eleven, and Twelve. On Wednesday, during lunch, Ishmael joins Scobie for the Year Nine meeting. Ishmael can’t decide if he wants everybody or nobody to... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...a politician or a stand-up comic, so he needs the public speaking practice. Razza tells Scobie that he’s in because they’ll be competing against “chick schools.” Moments later, Bill Kingsley comes... (full context)
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Scobie glares at Razza and announces that they’ve all been selected for the Year Nine debating... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Scobie says the next meeting will be Tuesday (Razza tells Bill to put it in his... (full context)
Chapter 22
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...the morning—and Razza notices Ishmael noticing Kelly. At lunch, as Razza and Ishmael wait for Scobie to come out of a classroom, Razza tells Ishmael to stop drooling and “perving” on... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Just then, Scobie comes out of the classroom. Razza informs Scobie that Ishmael didn’t learn anything in the... (full context)
Chapter 24
Friendship Theme Icon
...than actions”) on Monday. Unfortunately, nobody seems to understand how to work as a team. Scobie tries to organize an argument, Ignatius offers useless information, Bill sits still, and Razza insists... (full context)
Chapter 25
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Somehow, Scobie pulls the team together in time for the first debate. Ignatius speaks first, then Razza,... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...just reads his speech, they win this debate as well. This is, again, thanks to Scobie—he’s like having Michael Phelps on a kids’ swim team. The team wins their third debate... (full context)
Chapter 26
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
...Leseur’s syndrome—after all, he’s on the successful St. Daniel’s debate team, has a friend in Scobie, Barry isn’t tormenting him anymore, and Kelly Faulkner might even be a possible love interest.... (full context)
Chapter 27
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...the final preliminary debate against the Lourdes Girls School, when Ishmael gets a call from Scobie. Since Ignatius is busy playing the triangle in the band, the team for the night... (full context)
Friendship Theme Icon
Ishmael suggests they get a Year Eight to step in and do it, but Scobie says they can’t. Ishmael’s name is on the registration form. Scobie says he won’t make... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
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Ishmael thinks of all the times Scobie has been brave: standing up to Barry, reciting his poem at the football game, and... (full context)
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Ishmael wants to ask Scobie to clarify, but Scobie says Ishmael has to be there in 15 minutes or they... (full context)
Chapter 28
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...Fortunately, Ishmael is hysterical, not worried. Ishmael assures Dad he doesn’t need to come watch. Scobie is at the school doors and ushers Ishmael into the debate room. (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
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The Power of Language Theme Icon
Ishmael takes his seat between Scobie and Razza and pulls out some blank index cards. Scobie passes over Bill’s index cards... (full context)
Chapter 29
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...lovely voice and her beautiful eyes. He totally misses her introduction of the theme. Thankfully, Scobie is paying attention; he passes a note to Ishmael with a word, presumably the theme,... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Kelly sits down to applause. Scobie pushes index cards with his unreadable notes on them to Ishmael. Razza passes Ishmael a... (full context)
Chapter 30
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...if public figures had privacy. Then, he turns to his cards—which are all written by Scobie and Razza. Bill’s cards, with the prepared speech, are on the floor under Ishmael’s chair. (full context)
Chapter 32
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...the lunchtime debating meeting, Ishmael wearily tries to explain to Razza about Prue’s peg people. Scobie insists they should get on with the debrief. (There’s nothing to debrief; after Ishmael fainted,... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
Ishmael is confused by what Razza means. Scobie, Bill, and Ignatius stare and realize that Ishmael doesn’t know what happened. Ishmael doesn’t remember... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...he’s a “pervert,” too. Finally, Razza collapses on the floor, laughing at his own jokes. Scobie seriously says they need to be mature; they need to cut the “nonsense over what... (full context)
Chapter 33
Friendship Theme Icon
Once Bill, Ignatius, and Razza get Scobie’s joke, they laugh uproariously (and Bill shoots strawberry milk out his nose). Ignatius, Razza, and... (full context)
Chapter 34
Friendship Theme Icon
...has to break the bad news to Ignatius, Razza, and Bill: according to Miss Tarango, Scobie has gone somewhere with his father and won’t be back for the debating finals. And... (full context)
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
...and Razza asks Ishmael for his opinion. Ishmael thinks hard before he says that for Scobie’s sake, they should at least try. Razza and Ishmael continue to argue with Ignatius. Finally,... (full context)
Chapter 36
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
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...being one of the best nights of Ishmael’s life. It could only be better if Scobie had been there. But the next day, Ishmael doesn’t have to wonder anymore where Scobie... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Scobie’s letter is typed. In it, he writes that he’s going to miss the debating finals.... (full context)
Chapter 38
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
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A few days after getting Scobie’s letter, Miss Tarango announces that Scobie won’t be returning to school for “personal” and “family”... (full context)
Chapter 48
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
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...But before he can escape, Mr. Barker asks Ishmael for a word. He says that Scobie’s dad has called, and their concerns ended up not being concerns at all. Ishmael can... (full context)