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Don’t call me Ishmael

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The theme of, ‘the power of language’ is important in the book ‘Don’t call me Ishmael’ by Michael Gerard Bauer. The book was interesting in many ways, power of language is used not all the time but in most of the cases. The main obstacle of the theme ‘the power of language’ were the dislike and distrust between Barry Bagsley and Miss Tarango in the chair challenge. It was a very useful thing to have for James Scobie in the Assembly and to Ishmael in his prayer.

The power of language is used through this book in chapter 9. In chapter 9, Miss Tarango gives Barry Bagsley the ‘Chair Challenge’ where she has claimed to be able to force him out of the chair before walking around it three times. This unfortunately meant that Barry Bagsley had to wait for Miss Tarango to finish it first. But she fails to complete the third circle which meant that he had to leave the classroom when the bell goes, therefore losing the challenge. Miss Tarango supports the power of language, saying “You see how the power of language can be, boys? Even a little word like “before” can hurt you if you don’t treat it with respect and listen carefully.” (Page 39) As a result this highlights how language can be very powerful which gives Ishmael confidence in his words.

The power of language is distributed in chapter 45 and 46. In these two chapters Ishmael gives Barry Bagsley the taste of his own medicine, where he claims that Barry is wrong about Ishmael not having a prayer. Unfortunately for Barry, Ishmael did not say the prayer because he was stumbling by what he was going to say and he had second thoughts. Meaning that Barry was not going to get what he was supposed to get. Ishmael changed his prayer from revenge to a weird prayer. “Let us pray that barriers which separate us and keep us apart can be overcome and that we can learn to get along with each other.” (Page 259) This scene highlights how language can be used for the good and the evil. And it made a different in Ishmael’s confidence on taking Barry Bagsley.

In chapter 18 the power of language is used once again. In this chapter, James Scobie gives everyone what he thinks about the team in the assembly. Since the team did not win at all it was because they did not have anyone to
cheer them on. James Scobie came up with a cheer that when he finished saying it everyone wanted the cheer, even the coach wanted one. Scobie says “Finally if I may, I would like to recite a few verses I’ve written for another group of boys who will also need to show courage and commitment when they represent the college this Saturday against the might of Churchill.” The coach grabbed a copy and says “we’ll use some of the words and whip up some banners and posters. And you are my secret weapon.” (Page 99-100) This chapter is the highlight of how language can make people stronger and more confident in them.

In summery the point is that if you use power of language. Yet, it will be more reliable and more useable in the real world than any other themes such as bulling or Acceptance of individuality. The lack of people using power of language properly is not as much as people using it inappropriately. Ishmael and James Scobie have fought for a much better place where they would not be teased and that’s what they got because of them using the power of language. Barry Bagsley made a friend because his mother was there and he did not read out the prayer that has horrified him. And everything has been better with ‘power of language’ being on our side.

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