Captivity Explored: Tale of Confinement in 'Ishmael'

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Ishmael's Journey: From Jungle to Captivity
  3. Conclusionca


The word Captivity can mean many things such as zoo animals being held captive by humans or African Americans put into slavery. Captivity is not only for animals but also for humans as such humans are captive in this thing called society. Captivity is one of the main themes used in the book Ishmael. Ishmael is a telepathic gorilla who has been in containment at many places for several years, throughout those years he has experienced captivity first hand. Captivity is introduced into the story when the reader first met Ishmael and when the reader learns of his past. This trend continues when Ishmael said that not only animals are shackled in captivity but it also applies to humans. In most of the book, there is heavily references of captivity for both humans and animals

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Ishmael's Journey: From Jungle to Captivity

Ishmael was born in Africa. As he was living in the jungle he was taken away from the jungle. He was transported to 3 different locations throughout his life. His first location after he was captured in Africa was the zoo. The second location is when he was transported to a carnival where he stayed for a couple of years. The final location is when Ishmael was bought by a man named Walter. Later Walter learned that Ishmael is telepathic and began to speak to him but as a result, Ishmael was caged up.

Ishmael had been held captive for so long, due to this he was able to learn more about captivity for both animals and humans. Ishmael’s goal is to save the world from ultimate destruction, and he believes that he could reach that goal by sharing his knowledge with his pupil. Ishmael then made the main character his pupil and taught him that he was held captive by society as well. Ishmael asked the main character who wanted to destroy the world, the main character responded by saying nobody wanted to destroy the world. Then, Ishmael responded by saying: “You’re captives of a civilization system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live (Quinn, 25).” Ishmael believes that due to evolution and human running to the world and having different lifestyles it is causing the world’s destruction.

The author told a story throughout the novel where he talks about the Takers and the Leavers. Ishmael claims that the Leavers are the Native Americans or any other lifeform who’s land or anything was taken from them by the Takers. The Takers are modern society such as Americans. The Takers are slowly destroying the world due to their greediness for power as well as to ensure their own survival rather than to help other life forms who are in greater need then the Takers.


In the book, Ishmael, Daniel Quinn explains to the reader that both Ishmael and the main character is held in captivity. By learning Ishmael’s background story, we learned that he has experienced captivity throughout his life. We also discovered through Ishmael’s interactions with the main character that he is also held captive by humanity as well. Both Ishmael and the main character were influenced by the theme of captivity throughout the book and it made one think about how much society has changed for both the good and the bad. Overall there are many themes introduced throughout the book but one of the most important themes that were constantly getting brought back up in the story was captivity.  

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