Ishmael

Narrator Character Analysis

The narrator of Ishmael is a middle-aged, deeply cynical man. Though he came of age during the 1960s, a time when millions of people fought to change the world, he’s largely given up on the possibility than any genuine change is possible—and as a result, he goes through life with a vague yet profound sense of dissatisfaction and loneliness. Nevertheless, the narrator still feels a desire to change the world, and this motivates his decision to find Ishmael and participate in his lessons on humanity and the environment. At times, Quinn shows the narrator to be stubborn and selfish, but it’s implied that these qualities are the result of his uneasiness with Taker society—an uneasiness that sometimes inspires him to drink heavily. In all, the narrator is a stand-in for the reader: an intelligent, open-minded person who wants to change the world and yet feels deeply cynical about the possibility of any real change. Just as it’s unclear whether the narrator has truly absorbed Ishmael’s lessons about change or not, it’s left up to us to decide whether or not to embrace Ishmael the novel.

Narrator Quotes in Ishmael

The Ishmael quotes below are all either spoken by Narrator or refer to Narrator. 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:
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of Ishmael published in 1995.
Chapter 1 Quotes

TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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Then one day when I was in my mid-teens I woke up and realized that the new era was never going to begin. The revolt hadn’t been put down, it had just dwindled away into a fashion statement. Can I have been the only person in the world who was disillusioned by this?

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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WITH MAN GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR GORILLA?

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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“On the basis of my history, what subject would you say I was best qualified to teach?”

I blinked and told him I didn’t know.

“Of course you do. My subject is captivity.”

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

And when we’re finished, you’ll have an entirely new perception of the world and of all that’s happened here. And it won’t matter in the least whether you remember how that perception was assembled. The journey itself is going to change you, so you don’t have to worry about memorizing the route we took to accomplish that change.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

You didn’t believe me when I said that this is ambient in your culture. Now you see what I mean. The mythology of your culture hums in your ears so constantly that no one pays the slightest bit of attention to it. Of course man is conquering space and the atom and the deserts and the ocean and the elements. According to your mythology, this is what he was born to do.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

“It’s because there’s something fundamentally wrong with humans. Something that definitely works against paradise. Something that makes people stupid and destructive and greedy and shortsighted.”

“Of course. Everyone in your culture knows this. Man was born to turn the world into a paradise, but tragically he was born flawed.”

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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One of the most striking features of Taker culture is its passionate and unwavering dependence on prophets. The influence of people like Moses, Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and Muhammed in Taker history is simply enormous.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Though the Takers don’t know it yet, the gods did not exempt man from the law that governs the lives of grubs and ticks and shrimps and rabbits and mollusks and deer and lions and jellyfish. They did not exempt him from this law any more than they exempted him from the law of gravity.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

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But your craft isn’t going to save you. Quite the contrary, it’s your craft that’s carrying to toward the catastrophe. Five billion of people pedaling away—or ten billion or twenty billions—can’t make it fly. It’s been in free fall from the beginning and that fall is about to end.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

The gazelle and the lion are enemies only in the minds of the Takers. The lion that comes across a herd of gazelles doesn’t massacre them, as an enemy would. It kills one, not to satisfy its hatred of gazelles but to satisfy its hunger, and once it has made its kill the gazelles are perfectly content to go on grazing with the lion right in their midst.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

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There was more to it than this, however, because I still felt depressed. A second bourbon helped me to it: I was making progress. That’s right. This was the source of my feeling of depression.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Alcohol and Painkillers
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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I had to face it: I didn’t just want a teacher—I wanted a teacher for life.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

The more competitors you destroy, the more humans you can bring into the world, and that makes it just about the holiest work there is. Once you exempt yourself from the law of limited competition, everything in the world except your food and the food of your food becomes an enemy to be exterminated.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

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If you go among the various peoples of your culture—if you go to China and Japan and Russia and England and India—each people will give you a completely different account of themselves, but they are nonetheless enacting a single basic story, which is the story of the Takers. The same is true of the Leavers. The Bushmen of Africa, the Alawa of Australia, the Kreen-Akrore of Brazil, and the Navajo of the United States would each give you a different account of themselves but they too are all enacting one basic story, which is the story of the Leavers.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

When I arrived the next day, I found that a new plan was in effect: Ishmael was no longer on the other side of the glass, he was on my side of it, sprawled on some cushions a few feet from my chair. I hadn’t realized how important that sheet of glass had become to our relationship: to be honest, I felt a flutter of alarm in my stomach.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Related Symbols: Glass
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

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“But it makes sense this way,” I insisted. “The mark was given to Cain as a warning to others: ‘Leave this man alone. This is a dangerous man, one who exacts sevenfold vengeance.’ Certainly a lot of people over the world have learned that it doesn’t pay to mess with people with white faces.”

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

FRIENDS OF ISHMAEL: another friend has lost contact. Please call and tell me where he is.

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael, Rachel Sokolow
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

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Incredible as it may seem to you, I would rather live this way than on anyone’s largess, even yours.

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

“All the same, Bwana, what are we to do with this food if we don’t need it?”

“You save it! You save it to thwart the gods when they decide it’s your turn to go hungry. You save it so that when they send a drought, you can say, ‘Not me, goddamn it I’m not going hungry, and there’s nothing you can do about it, because my life is in my own hands now!’”

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

“The premise of the Taker story is that the world belongs to man.” I thought for a couple of minutes, then I laughed. “It’s almost too neat. The premise of the Leaver story is man belongs to the world.”

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 239
Explanation and Analysis:

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“All along, I’ve been saying to myself, ‘Yes, this is all very interesting, but what good is it? This isn’t going to change anything!”
“And now?”
This is what we need. Not just stopping things, Not just less of things. People need something positive to work for. They need a vision of something that ... I don’t know. Something that…”
“I think what you’re groping for is that people need more than to be scolded, more than to be made to feel stupid and guilty. They need more than a vision of doom. They need a vision of the world and of themselves that inspires them.”

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 243-244
Explanation and Analysis:

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I shook my head. “I’m afraid it’s a cause to which almost all of humanity will subscribe. White or colored, male or female, what the people of this culture want is to have as much wealth and power in the Taker prison as they can get. They don’t give a damn that it’s a prison and they don’t give a damn that it’s destroying the world.”
Ishmael shrugged. “As always, you’re a pessimist. Perhaps you’re right. I hope you’re wrong.”
”I hope so too, believe me.”

Related Characters: Ishmael (speaker), Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

WITH GORILLA GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR MAN?

Related Characters: Narrator (speaker), Ishmael
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

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Narrator Character Timeline in Ishmael

The timeline below shows where the character Narrator appears in Ishmael. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Because the narrator had wanted to change the world, he spent years trying to find the proper teacher,... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Just as he is about to leave, the narrator notices a glass window at the far end of the room. Peering into the window,... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
The gorilla explains to the narrator that as a young ape, he was sold to a traveling fair. Where before he... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael next asks the narrator to explain what has brought him to Ishmael. The narrator thinks, and then brings up... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator if he feels like the Aryan in his story—if he thinks he’s being lied to.... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
The next day, the narrator wakes up and wonders if his visit to Ishmael’s cage has been a dream. He... (full context)
Chapter 2
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael proceeds with his first lesson for the narrator . He points out that the narrator, like Ishmael himself, is obsessed with the history... (full context)
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael brings up an important concept: Mother Culture. Mother Culture is the voice in the narrator ’s head, telling the narrator that all is well, and that the status quo is... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael next tells the narrator that the journey of education will be more important than the destination. In other words,... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael outlines the basic story of the narrator ’s culture. History begins with the Leavers, a highly unsuccessful group of people who died... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael tells the narrator that the lesson is essentially over for the day. He says that the narrator should... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Ishmael insists that the narrator ’s culture has a story, and moreover, a story with a beginning, a middle, and... (full context)
Chapter 3
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
The next day, when the narrator arrives at Ishmael’s room, he sees an object sitting in his chair: a tape recorder.... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
In response to the story the narrator has told, Ishmael looks amused. This story is clearly a fiction: to illustrate this, Ishmael... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael tells the narrator that everyone in the world—whether religious or atheistic—believes in at least this shared premise: the... (full context)
Chapter 4
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
The next day, Ishmael and the narrator meet to discuss the rest of the story of culture. The narrator is confident that... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael is impressed with the narrator ’s work: he agrees that agriculture represented the beginning of the narrator’s culture. The premise... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
To answer his own question, Ishmael asks the narrator to imagine life without man. The narrator does so, and finds that he’s visualizing a... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
...world aren’t caused by human nature: they’re the result of enacting the specific story that the narrator ’s culture believes. (full context)
Chapter 5
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
The next day, Ishmael begins the lesson with a summary of the narrator ’s progress so far: he’s identified the beginning and the middle of the story. It’s... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael is pleased with the narrator ’s work: the narrator, he says, has identified the “end” of the story of culture.... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator to identify the reason that mankind’s conquest of the Earth never results in utopia. This... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Ishmael reviews what he and the narrator have discussed. Takers have created a depressing mythology for themselves: mankind is flawed, and there... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael tells the narrator that tomorrow they’ll investigate if there are other models of how to live, besides the... (full context)
Chapter 6
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
...always are, not merely how they are in one particular situation. Ishmael promises to give the narrator some universal, unbreakable laws about how to live. (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
...these rules held everywhere in the universe. Similarly, nothing Ishmael says will be surprising to the narrator —the value of the lesson will be in illustrating that there are laws of how... (full context)
Chapter 7
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael poses a thought experiment to the narrator : there is a society that appears perfect in every way. The people are happy... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael reveals to the narrator that the thought experiment he outlined isn’t an experiment at all: it’s the structure of... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael dismisses the narrator , telling him to return when he’s discovered the fundamental laws that govern the community... (full context)
Chapter 8
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
In Ishmael’s room the narrator dives into explaining the law of life. As an outline, he proposes that Takers do... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
...“wild,” animals only ever take what they need for themselves. The third thing Takers do, the narrator continues, is deny their competitors access to food. Takers claim the entire world as their... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
The fourth thing Takers do, the narrator concludes, is to store food. For example, if a lion kills a gazelle today, it... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael sums up the narrator ’s observations into one remark: “You may compete, but you may not wage war.” He... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator what happens when one species breaks the law of life. The narrator realizes what would... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator to sum up what they’ve discussed so far. The narrator realizes that any species that... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael points to a book lying on a desk behind the narrator : The American Heritage Book of Indians. The narrator opens the book and reads it... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael returns to the subject of laws. A week ago, he reminds the narrator , the narrator believed that there were no laws governing how people must live. The... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
...Takers have their own cultural story, the Leavers have one, too. Ishmael promises to tell the narrator this story during their next lesson. (full context)
Chapter 9
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
When the narrator returns the next day, he’s surprised to see Ishmael waiting for him on the other... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator where the story of the Fall comes from. While the authors of the story might... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael draws the narrator a map, showing the Arabian Peninsula at the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution. In the... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Together, Ishmael and the narrator sum up what they’ve found. The Adam and Eve story, quite simply, does not make... (full context)
Chapter 10
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
After this lesson, the narrator gets an unexpected visitor. His uncle is in town, and he ends up staying with... (full context)
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
In the middle of his work, the narrator realizes that he has a sore tooth. He goes to a dentist, and ends up... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Determined to find Ishmael, the narrator looks through the phone book for the last name “Sokolow.” He finds the address for... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
In order to find Ishmael, the narrator places an ad in the paper, appealing to “friends of Ishmael.” No one answers this... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Ishmael agrees with the distinction the narrator is trying to make. Leaver societies, he suggests, rely on millions of years of trial... (full context)
Chapter 11
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
The next day, the narrator returns to the carnival to find Ishmael. It is raining, and the narrator has brought... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael mentions the story of the Leavers—a story that Ishmael had promised to tell the narrator some time ago. Ishmael asks the narrator why he’s interested in learning this story. The... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael next asks the narrator how mankind became mankind. The narrator is unsure how to answer this question. To begin... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator about the plains Indians, the fiercest opponents of the American settlers in the 17th, 18th,... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator if the Agricultural Revolution was “necessary.” The narrator responds that it was necessary to give... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael proposes an exercise: he will play the role of a Leaver, while the narrator will play the role of a Taker, named Bwana. Ishmael begins by asking “Bwana” why... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael and “Bwana” ( the narrator ) continue with their exercise. Ishmael asks “Bwana” what the problem with the Leaver is,... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael ends the exercise, and tells the narrator that he’s made great progress. The goal of the Takers, he explains, is to take... (full context)
Chapter 12
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
After the latest lesson, the narrator leaves Ishmael to find Ishmael’s owner. He tells the owner, a man named Art Owens,... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
On Friday night, the narrator returns to the carnival. After bribing the bribee, he greets Ishmael, eager for another lesson.... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator how the Leavers live. When the narrator is unsure how to respond, Ishmael asks him,... (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael asks the narrator to sum up the story of the Leavers. After some thought, the narrator says that... (full context)
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael and the narrator turn to the problem of how to live like a Leaver in the 20th century.... (full context)
Fiction, Storytelling, and Truth Theme Icon
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
Humans, the Environment, and Extinction Theme Icon
Ishmael suggests that aspiring Leavers like the narrator have a powerful source of inspiration: the collapse of the Soviet Union. This event proves... (full context)
Cynicism, Misanthropy, and the Failure of the 1960s Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
...prison industry, whose job is to keep the prisoners occupied. The nature of this industry, the narrator correctly guesses, is to consume the world. (full context)
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Ishmael sighs and stares at the narrator . He tells the narrator that he’s finished with him, and the lessons are over.... (full context)
Chapter 13
Education, Teaching, and Prophets Theme Icon
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Having waited over the weekend for his car repairs, the narrator drives back to the carnival. There, he is surprised to find that the carnival has... (full context)