Daniel Quinn's Ishmael

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In his novel Ishmael, Daniel Quinn discusses the destruction and salvation of the world. By way of a newspaper ad, an unnamed narrator meets a telepathic gorilla, named Ishmael, who had put up the ad to find a pupil with a desire to save the world. Spurred by his benefactor’s obsession with Nazi Germany, Ishmael imparts on the narrator what he knows best: captivity (Quinn 24). Ishmael claims humans of what are considered civilized cultures are captives of a story that keeps the world captive. This large group, Ishmael calls “Takers,” while everyone else—usually hunter-gatherers of “primitive” cultures—Ishmael calls “Leavers” (Quinn 39). In order to save the world, Ishmael believes Takers need to be freed from the story they are…show more content…
Although it could be argued that they were Leavers by not exterminating their competition, they could have instead been hunter-gatherer Takers believing all large mammals were something to be conquered and owned as agricultural Takers view the soil of the world.

Despite this romanticization of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, however, Ishmael isn’t urging people to become hunter-gatherers to save the world. Ishmael says settlement—and, by extent, agriculture—is a biological adaptation, which can compete with other adaptations and, thus, is “subject to the laws of competition” (Quinn 135). If hunter-gatherer Takers can exist, agricultural Leavers could too, or as Ishmael bluntly puts it, “The Leaver lifestyle isn’t about hunting and gathering, it’s about letting the rest of the community live” (Quinn 250). As Leaver groups typically find a lifestyle that suits them, Takers could invent a new lifestyle to avoid the destruction of the world.

As societies of today become more aware of their impact on the world, I feel we begin to work towards belonging to the world rather than ruling the world—we become less self-centered. There are individuals beside Daniel Quinn who warn about the destruction of the world. In 2007, Al Gore and others won the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to bring the impending environmental, social, and political catastrophes of global warming to the public’s attention”
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