Ishmael By Daniel Quinn Summary and Analysis Part 9: Sections 9-11

Summary

Ishmael pushes the narrator to look more closely at the story of The Fall. If the Takers did not create the story, then who did, he asks the narrator. The narrator can't remember, and Ishmael tells him it would be the Semites, the ancestors of the Hebrews. Ishmael shows the narrator his own map of the expansion of the Agricultural Revolution to further his point. His map illustrates that the agriculturalists were surrounded by herders. For the agriculturalists to expand and fulfill their Taker "destiny," they had to take land from the herders. Ishmael instructs the narrator to read the story of Cain and Abel to better understand how this expansion took shape.

In the story of Cain and Abel, Cain represents the Takers who must kill the Leavers (Abel) in order to expand agricultural production. Once again, Ishmael has brought the narrator's attention to a story that, while familiar, makes more sense when looked at from the Leaver perspective. Thus, Cain and Abel aren't actual brothers, but representatives of different human cultures.

Ishmael explains that because the Leavers didn't fully die out or become completely assimilated into Taker culture, the Takers, through the spread of Christianity, came to adopt a tale that once was used to show their shortcomings as one of their own creation myths.

Analysis

In sections 9-11, Ishmael once again uses allusion and storytelling to broaden the narrator's understanding of Taker and Leaver culture. The key allusion in these sections is to the story of Cain and Abel. In the Bible story, Cain and Abel are brothers; Cain's a farmer and Abel's a herder. Cain's jealousy of Abel eventually induces him to murder Abel. By alluding to this story, Ishmael adds to the narrator's understanding of Taker and Leaver culture and the divide between the two. According to Ishmael, Cain is representative of Takers and Abel is representative of Leavers. Leavers used this allegory to explain the spread of Taker culture during the Agricultural Revolution. Recall that earlier in Part 9, Ishmael alluded to and expanded on the story of The Fall. When looking at both allusions and the added information Ishmael brings to both, the narrator better grasps Ishmael's philosophy and his take on how the world has come to be dominated by Taker culture.

Second, the function of storytelling continues to expand. So far, storytelling has been used as a teaching tool by Ishmael and as a term for the way a culture understands itself. For instance, recall that Ishmael first began explaining Taker culture by trying to get the narrator to tell the Takers' creation myth (i.e., the story of the Big Bang and evolution resulting in humankind). Now, Ishmael also shows the narrator that cultures can use story to explain other cultures' behaviors. Both the story of The Fall and Cain and Abel were tools Semites used to explain the expansion of agriculture and the people who threatened their way of life.

Furthermore, the Takers' appropriation of this story in the Bible suggests that another part of Taker culture is appropriating Leaver culture in order to dominate it. By taking the stories of The Fall and Cain and Abel for their own, the Takers have obscured the point of these stories and have made Leaver culture even more invisible and diminished when compared with Taker culture.

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