At the beginning of Ishmael
, the narrator
speak to one another with a glass window in between them. It’s only much later, when Ishmael sits on the same side of the glass as the narrator, that the narrator realizes how profoundly this glass window has influenced his relationship with Ishmael. The glass window symbolizes distance: not only the distance between Ishmael and the narrator, but between the narrator’s desire to change the world and his pessimistic habits. During his first lessons with Ishmael, the narrator has a difficult time showing enthusiasm for the complicated conclusions and daring theories that Ishmael proposes. Thanks to the glass separating them, every word Ishmael speaks is accompanied by a kind of asterisk. Even if he can’t disagree with Ishmael, the narrator can’t muster the energy to take Ishmael seriously and agree with him whole-heartedly—in the back of his mind, he’s thinking, “True, but you’re just a gorilla.” As the narrator grows closer with Ishmael, he stops seeing Ishmael as a lurid spectacle and begins to accept him as a friend and a teacher. Thus, the glass window between them disappears.