Monday, August 13, 2012

alegorie de la caverne

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part 1 Chapter summary

Ismael by Daniel Quinn

Chapter 1

The novel starts off with our main character, a middle aged man who’s name remain anonymous, reading the newspaper. He reads and add stating “Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.” This add really catches the eye of the man for he had been searching for a teacher himself. A few days later he decides to go see this teacher for himself despite his thoughts of the place being infested with “mooncalfs, softheads, boobies, ninnyhammers, noodleheads, etc…” Once arrived, the man is greeted with a large surprise a lone gorilla sitting in an almost empty room.

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After all his reservations have settled down and the man had accepted the fact that the teacher was in fact a real gorilla, the lessons start. The Gorilla explains his life and how he got there. He explains how he was captured at a young age and lived in a cage his whole life. This gave him time to observe life and gain a profound knowledge on the subject. The gorilla goes by the name of Ishmael. This name was given to him by his last owner who had also taught him how to express himself threw telepathy.


Ishmael goes on to explain that his benefactor awakened his interest in the subject of captivity. His benefactor was a Jewish man, obsessed with the events of nazi Germany. Ishmaels quest became the link between German people being captive of Hitler and how humans are captive of their culture. Ishmael wants his student, the man, to tell him the story of his culture, the mythology of his culture. They decide to use the terms of “Leavers” and “Takers”, to replace civilized and primitive.


When the man arrives for his lessons, Ishmael greets him with a tape recorder. They decide to tape the man’s story on the mythology of his culture. The man’s story starts 15 billion years earlier with the big bang incident. He describes life of bacteria, microorganisms that eventually evolve into oceans, land, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. He believes this is the story of creation as told in his culture. They have a large discussion about the myth of creation and agree that this could be the beginning. Ishmael then sends the man off with a new assignement, to figure out the middle of the story of how man came to be what and where they are now.

Chapter 4

When the man comes back, Ishmael starts the tape recorder. The man starts off by saying “The world was created for man.” but that man did not realize it. Man lived his life as all other creatures did. “It means… to live at the mercy of the world. It means to live without having any control over your environment.” Man had always been a hunter, gatherer but when he realized he could manipulate his environment with agriculture so that food exhaustion didn’t occur, he was no longer at the world’s mercy. Man could now make a settlement. This was what the man had concluded as the middle of the story and the birth of his culture.

Chapter 5

Ishmael and the man decide that the middle of the story is “Man beginning to fulfill his destiny.” This chapter describes the split between Takers and Leavers. The main characters decide to concentrate on the Takers society. They begin to look at the influence of prophets among Takers. The Takers needed the prophets to tell them what to do and how to live. The prophets were the ones that could hear and listen to Mother Culture. This would be a major element on how things came to be in the culture of Takers.

Chapter 6

The man still has conflicting feelings about the fact that he is having a student teacher relationship with a gorilla. How could this be? Putting aside his reservations, they go on to discuss the knowledge of trial and error; how man tries things, fails and tries something new. This is the beginning of law, such as the law of gravity. They also discuss the laws of aerodynamics, genetics and thermodynamics. Ishmael wants to know why man thinks certain laws are not relevant to him. They go on to discuss that man keeps on trying to obtain goals regardless of the consequences. “Trial and error isn’t a bad way to learn how to build an aircraft, but it can be a disastrous way to learn to build a civilization.”

Chapter 7

In this chapter we find Ishmael and the man discussing the laws of an orderly community, how for billions of years there was an order to the functioning of life. Green plants were eaten by plant eaters, who were food for predators, who were food for other predators, who were food for scavengers who then became nutrients for the soil.

Chapter 8

In this chapter the man returns to Ishmael with the law which destincts man (civilization) from the rest of the community (the world). This law contains 4 aspects, the first one being Man exterminates their competitors. Most species eat what they hunt yet man will kill to exterminate a species from their food source. (farmers and coyotes). Secondly, Takers systematically destroy their competitors food to make room for their own (destruction of rainforests for housing). Thirdly, the Takers deny their access to food. (coyotes and cows). Finally, Takers preserve and store food.

They come to the conclusion that man is at war with the world. “We’ve discovered that any species that exempts themselves from the rules of competition ends up destroying the community in order to support its own expansion.”

They conclude in this chapter that the Takers culture is now riddled with greed, cruelty, mental illness, crime, and drug addiction.


When the man arrives the next day, he find that Ishmael is no longer behind the glass wall but in the same room as him. This unnerves the man just by the sheer size of the gorilla. Ishmael shows the man his drawings of maps of the world and they begin to discuss the knowledge of the gods. They discuss what our culture knows as the Bible, more specifically, the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden apple. Ishmael tells the man that the apple is from the tree of knowledge and that the gods decided that man was not equipped to have this amount of knowledge. Yet man believes he has all the knowledge that the gods do and is thus the ultimate ruler. For billions of years the world was doing fine and after a few thousand years of human rule, “the world is at the point of death”. They discuss the story of Cane (Taker) Able (Leaver) and how our map of the world changes as the Takers take more room. When Taker couples speak of having larger families, this is a perfect example of them doing as they please with our planet. “… We can have fifteen if we’d like. All we have to do is plow under another few hundred acres of rainforest � and who cares if another dozen species disappear as a result”.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, the man’s uncle decides to visit the man for a few days. Then, the man gets a tooth acke and has to go see the dentist. Then he has to hand in an article for his job. Because of these inconveniences, the man had gone nearly a week without seeing Ishmael and when he went to go see him, he found a janitor locking up the room. He was doing so because the tenant had not payed her rent; the tenant being his last owners daughter. The man then goes to the desk and ask’s for information on the last tenant. The lady at the desk refuses to answer him so he looks for her in a phone book. He can’t find her but find her mother. He then goes to see the mother and finds out that their daughter had been dead for three months and that the mother has no clues where Ishmael is. Finally the man decides to putt an article in the newspaper saying “Friends of Ishmael Another friend has lost contact. Please call and tell where he is”. Nothing comes of the article but he sees in the newspaper that a carnival had come to town. The man finds Ishmael at this carnival in a small cage yet Ishmael refuses to speak to him. The man insists on communicating with him. They decide to continue their lessons butt only in the evenings when the carnival patrons are gone. They then define what is culture. Culture being the sum total of what is passed along such as beliefs, theories, customs, legends, songs, stories, jokes, superstitions, etc… Thus begins their discussion on Darwin and paleontologists. He explains that our two groups in society, the Leavers and the Takers, both have different beliefs on where and how man started. Yet the Takers, thinking that their theory is obviously true are slowly anialating all that is left of the Leavers. Leavers such as the Mayan and the Navajo. “Every time the Takers stamp out a Leaver culture, a wisdom ultimately tested since the birth of mankind disappears from the world beyond recall”.

Chapter 11

The next day the man brings Ishmael warm blankets but Ishmael is in a very bad mood because of his discomfort in the cold damp cage. The man attempts to start a discussion but Ishmael doesn’t respond because he is not in a good mood. Ishmael asks the man “What have you learned so far”. Not knowing how to respond, Ishmael suggests to him the ultimate question “how did man become man?” The man cannot quite answer that question but decides to go on with the lessons and go back to that ultimate question. They begin to discuss the agricultural revolution, how the Takers keep destroying everything in their path with their quest for land ownership. Ishmael tells him the story of the Plains Indians. The Plains Indians had been agriculturalists for centuries, thus being Takers. But when the Spanish introduced horses to North America, they abandoned agriculture, and resumed the hunting gathering life, thus become Leavers. They conclude by saying “The Takers are those who know good and evil and the Leavers are those who live in the hands of the gods”.

Chapter 1

This chapter starts with the man searching for a new owner for Ishmael. He tries himself to purchase Ishmael but doesn’t have enough money. So Ishmael is still condemned to live at the carnival. That evening, they go back to their discussion on how man became man. They touch again on the subject of Leavers and Takers, how Takers know good and evil and Leavers live in the hands of god; the different philosophies of these two cultures. “ The premise of the Taker story is the world belongs to man. The premise of the Leavers story is man belongs to the world”. Ishmael feels that his lessons are ending, that the man must go teach others what he has leaned. He must teach them that the Leavers life is not antiquated, and not to reach back but reach forward. That humans are an inventive people and must reinvent their world.

Chapter 1

The man decides that he has to save Ishmael by getting him out of the carnival. Due to his lack of money, the man would have to steal him. His car breaks down so he rents a van. Once he gets to the carnival, its gone. He finds a pile of Ishmael’s things, maps, diagrams and posters. As he is going threw the stuff, an elderly man tells him that Ishmael had died of pneumonia. So the man takes the things home with him. The man then brings back the van and goes back to his apartment and he unrolls Ishmael’s poster and realizes there is a message on both sides. The poster reads on one side “With man gone, will there be hope for gorilla?” and on the other side “With gorilla gone, will there be hope for man?”

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