Ishmael: Humans Held Captive

Topics: Want, Need, Blindness Pages: 2 (745 words) Published: December 10, 2013
When someone hears the phrase “held captive”, usually wild animals come to mind. No one ever really thinks of humans as being held captive. However, in Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel Ishmael, the character of Ishmael tries teaching the story’s narrator to think of ways in which he has been held captive by both internal and external forces. Society has a way of making people feel like they need to do certain things to be successful, so basically society is holding people captive by holding them back from living the way they want to. As humans, we also have ways of holding ourselves captive. Ishmael compares our captivity with a form of blindness. Throughout the novel, Quinn helps the reader realize what they are blind to and what they are blinded by. Society, or “Mother Culture” as referred to by Ishmael, has countless ways of holding us back. “Mother Culture, whose voice has been in your ear since the day of your birth, has given you an explanation of how things came to be this way. You know it well; everyone in your culture knows it well…” (Page 40) In this sentence and the sentences after, Ishmael explains how none of us are really taught how we should act, we just pick up on it by watching our surroundings. Ideas about needing to go to college and get a great job are ideas that come from society. You don’t need to go to college to be successful but society makes us feel like in order to be successful, we need to go to college. We’ve been trained to believe that having years of school under our belts or a degree to hang on the wall will make us successful and in turn, make us happy. As humans, being at the top of the ecosystem and being free should make us happy in its own. But being free isn’t always what we think it is. The belief that we are free is kind of an illusion. Society blinds us by letting us believe that free is the ultimate form of living. We feel that since we’re free, we have the best of the best. This leads us to not wanting to change anything or...
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