Bisson 1 Katie Bisson
Environmental Studies Program
24 June 2014
This Is Where the Title Would Go
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is a philosophical novel that focuses on the conversations between a gorilla and his student, the unnamed narrator. The book explores the irresponsibility of humankind, and tries to deconstruct the ideas implanted in society by Mother Culture. Quinn takes ideas concerning the role of humankind that have been widely accepted and postulates that they are in fact the myths of our culture.
Ishmael begins when the narrator encounters an ad that reads, “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world” (4). Upon arriving at the address listed in the ad, the narrator finds himself in an office…show more content… However, I was somewhat disappointed upon reading. Though I can't say I disliked it, I honestly didn't enjoy the book altogether either. Certain aspects of the book I appreciated, such as the mental exercises Ishmael gave the narrator and the thought-provoking (though not quite convincing) interpretation of the story of Cain and Abel. Nonetheless, I found other features uninspiring and, in some cases, scientifically incorrect. For example, Quinn accuses human beings of "systematically destroy[ing] their competitors' food," something that, he claims, never occurs in the natural community (127). They "take what [they] need, and leave the rest alone" (127). This is simply not true. Dolphins, for example, have been known to attack and kill porpoises for sport (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2572968/Pictured-Horrific-moment-bottlenose-dolphins-attack-kill-two-porpoises-FUN-cat-mouse-game.html). Also, I disliked Quinn's advocacy for the Noble Savage theory. Through Ishmael, he makes the argument that while the Takers are causing the destruction of the world, Leavers have caused no real harm to nature. However, the nomadic and (tribal) peoples that comprise Quinn's "Leaver" (group) have historically overhunted many species (APHG book p. 130). Despite this, I do believe the book is effective in opening one's eyes to the (carelessness with which billions treat the environment.) It forces one to consider the impacts our culture has had on the environment. Though I was not particularly fond of Ishmael, I am glad I read