Ishmael By Daniel Quinn Summary and Analysis Part 13

Summary

The next day, the narrator initiates his plan to rescue Ishmael from the carnival. First, he must drive back to the city. On his way there, his car breaks down. Once he gets it to a shop, he withdraws as much cash as he can from all his accounts. With a little over two thousand dollars, he hopes to buy Ishmael's freedom. He's not sure how he'll house and transport a gorilla, but he has faith he'll figure it out.

A couple days later, he realizes he should rent a van since his car is in the shop. He drives back to the carnival, only to find it has moved on. While at the empty fairgrounds, one of the workers informs the narrator that Ishmael died of pneumonia. The narrator is shocked and gathers up a few of Ishmael's belongings that were left behind. He frames one of Ishmael's posters and hangs it in his home.

Analysis

In this final section, the narrator is forced to come to terms with Ishmael's death and his responsibility to carry on with Ishmael's teachings. The first step the narrator must take is to realize his own culpability in Ishmael's passing. For instance, he acknowledges that he was too self-absorbed during their last meetings to see how sick Ishmael really was. Additionally, he calls Mr. Sokolow's butler, Mr. Partridge, to tell him about Ishmael's death. During the phone conversation, he chastises him for not helping him help Ishmael. And, while Mr. Partridge helps the narrator see that Ishmael may not have let them help him, the narrator comes to terms with his own short-sightedness.

In order to continue his growth, the narrator must take Ishmael's teachings to heart and put them into practice. Quinn indicates this through the narrator's inheritance of Ishmael's belongings. Through the gathering up of Ishmael's notebooks and drawings, the narrator symbolically takes on the role of teacher. However, aside from taking Ishmael's things, it's unclear what the narrator will do next. Quinn ends the novel with the question of the narrator's intentions unanswered as demonstrated through the narrator's inspection of Ishmael's poster that says on the back, "With Gorilla Gone, Will There Be Hope for Man." The novel ends with this question to the reader, forcing the reader, along with the narrator, to contemplate what action should come next after such philosophical debate and discussion.

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