The book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is one that questions man’s purpose on earth. The story begins with the narrator answering a newspaper ad that reads “TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” The speaker is convinced that this so called “teacher” must be some kind of hippie/guru. He sets out to meet this teacher in order to prove to himself it’s a scam. When he arrives to meet this teacher he walks into a room and the first thing he see’s is a sign that reads “WITH MAN GONE, WILL THERE BE HOPE FOR GORILLA?” . The narrator contemplates, “Did they imply that hope for gorilla’s lay in the extinction of the human race or in its survival?” .
Upon arriving in this room the narrator sees a gorilla standing behind the glass. After a few moments the gorilla begins to communicate with him telepathically. The speaker does not know how to react and is stunned that a gorilla is “speaking” to him. The gorilla begins to tell his story. He was taken by humans in Africa and eventually rescued. The man that rescued him realized that his intellect was far greater than earlier anticipated. The gorilla is known as Ishmael.
Through a series of conversations the narrator learns about what Ishmael calls “Takers” and “Leavers.” Takers are described by Ishmael as people who take more than they need to survive. They discovered agriculture and were the first to try to take over the world. According to Ishmael Takers believe that the world is a human life-support system, a machine designed to produce and sustain human life. Leavers are hunter gatherers or any other organism that lives in communion with nature, and only takes what is necessary for survival. Leavers follow the basic ways of life and do not attempt to escape the ABC’s. The ABC’s of ecology represent the three groups in the food chain: predators, consumers, and producers. All of these groups keep their place in the system and do not try to escape what naturally is going to happen. Unlike the Leavers, Takers try to master the world in a sense and by doing so disrupt the natural order of the world. According to Ishmael, if man knew how to live then they would be able to control the flaw in human nature; thus, preventing the destruction of the world and the imbalance of systems. Ishmael teaches that each organism believes evolution stopped with their creation. The creation story of the world ended with the creation of man. As if man was the ultimate goal. Man believes that the Gods played tricks on him in three different ways. The Gods did not place the world in the center of the universe, humans evolved from common slime, like everything else; they did not exempt humans from any laws that govern the lives of other organisms. Because of the fact that humans cannot escape from the basic laws that any other organism must abide by, they are unable to rule the world. Ishmael used an example of flight to show how agriculture and technological advancements were misinterpreted. When the first man attempted flight off the side of a cliff he believed himself to be flying, when in actuality he was falling. The same is true for advancements. Man always believed what he was doing was right. Ishmael referred to Adam and the tree of knowledge. Adam was told specifically not to eat from that tree, and if he did he would die. This idea was commonly thought of as the beginning of time but in truth is the fall of man. From that point, man believed nothing was too great to be discovered. Throughout the novel Ishmael taught about civilization, culture, and ultimately why man will never succeed in conquering the world. Towards the end the narrator realizes that Ishmael is going to die. He does not want him to die because as a man he knows he needs a teacher, or someone to guide him. Without Ishmael there is no one to teach him how to live. Once Ishmael dies the narrator goes back to the initial poster he viewed on his very first...
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