Ishmael | Study Guide

Daniel Quinn

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Course Hero. "Ishmael Study Guide." Course Hero. 6 Dec. 2019. Web. 27 Jan. 2022. <>.

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Course Hero. (2019, December 6). Ishmael Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from

In text

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Course Hero. "Ishmael Study Guide." December 6, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2022.


Course Hero, "Ishmael Study Guide," December 6, 2019, accessed January 27, 2022,

Ishmael | Character Analysis



When the narrator was a young and idealistic college student in the 1960s, he wanted to change the world. Now he doesn't believe that change is possible. Instead, he believes that humans are fundamentally flawed and incapable of improvement. Nonetheless, he answers Ishmael's ad. Through his conversations with Ishmael, the narrator is forced to contemplate issues he hasn't thought about in years. He dreads learning more because it means that the conversations will end. When Ishmael disappears, the narrator goes to a great deal of effort to find him and get him back.


When Ishmael was an infant, hunters killed his mother and took him to a zoo. He doesn't remember the incident but remembers what it was like to live in the wild. In the zoo and later a menagerie where he was called "Goliath," Ishmael listened to people talk. Thus, he learned about them. Eventually, he was purchased by a Jewish merchant named Mr. Sokolow. Mr. Sokolow gave him the name "Ishmael" and taught him to communicate. Ishmael knows a great deal about the environment, in part from his education but also because he remembers the law of the jungle.

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