Don’t Call Me Ishmael


Michael Gerard Bauer

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Themes and Colors
Identity and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Bullying and Courage Theme Icon
Friendship Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Don’t Call Me Ishmael, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Identity and Coming of Age

Don’t Call Me Ishmael begins with 14-year-old Ishmael Leseur explaining to readers that he hates his name, since he believes it’s the source of all his trouble. He shares a first name with one of the most famous characters in American literature (Ishmael from Herman Melville’s whaling novel Moby-Dick), and the school bully Barry Bagsley deemed Ishmael a “wussy-crap name” a year ago, making it his mission to torture and bully Ishmael whenever possible…

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Bullying and Courage

When readers first meet 14-year-old Ishmael, his only goal at school is to be invisible. This is because he’s the favorite target of the school bully, Barry Bagsley. And the only way to deal with Barry’s bullying, Ishmael reasons, is to keep his head down and stay out of Barry’s way as much as possible. But as Year Nine progresses and Ishmael starts to make friends at school, he starts to rethink his…

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Don’t Call Me Ishmael is, in many ways, a story of unlikely friendships. Ishmael begins the novel without any friends at school. But midway through the year, when James Scobie—who has a facial tic that makes him an instant target for bully Barry Bagsley—starts at St. Daniel’s Boys School, he and Ishmael quickly become friends. And their circle expands when Scobie starts a debating team which attracts several other loners in the Year…

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The Power of Language

On Ishmael’s first day of Year Nine, his English teacher, Miss Tarango, demonstrates for the class the “power of language.” Spurred to action by bully Barry Bagsley’s taunts and disrespect, Miss Tarango invites Barry to sit in her chair while she walks around him three times. If he manages to stay in the chair until she completes her third circle, she promises he can have the rest of the week off. Miss…

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