Apr 19 2007

More Ishmael References

Published by at 7:00 am under All General Discussions,VA Tech Massacre

There are some more references out on the “Ishmael” identity Cho Seung-Hui used. I am starting to move towards reader Crosspatch’s theory it could be associated with “Prairie” by James Fenimore Cooper – if it is a literary reference:

James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “The Prairie” has a character named Ishmael Bush who symbolically tries to conquer nature with an ax, Carlson said.

The reason I hesitate is the story’s theme doesn’t tie nicely with Cho’s mental state. But there is another book someone noted worth looking at:

Dr. Larry Carlson, chairman of the English Department at the College of Charleston, recalled a novel, “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn, that Cho might have read while a Virginia Tech English major.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if this book was taught in freshman English. That’s entirely possible,” Carlson said.

The book is part of the curriculum offered by the Department of English at Virginia Tech, according to the Ishmael Community Web site.

Carlson said “Ishmael” has violent themes. “It’s a book about setting things right. If you have a student who is disturbed, about anything can happen,” he said. Carlson said “Ishmael” is not taught at the college.

“Ishmael” is about a disillusioned modern writer who answers a personal ad and thereby meets a wise, learned gorilla named Ishmael that can communicate telepathically, according to Publishers Weekly. Ishmael lays out a theory of what has gone wrong with human civilization and how to correct it, a theory based on the tenet that humanity belongs to the planet rather than vice versa, The Library Journal states.

This story seems much more in line with Cho’s personna. And it also has the feature of the telepathic communication since we are learning Cho had speech problems and that is probably why he shied away from verbal interactions with people. Clearly the “Ishmael” personna is key to understanding Cho’s internal demons.

Update: There is a website with the domain “ishmael.com” interestingly enough dedicated to Daniel Quinn’s writings. It appears this site is under the direction of Quinn. Here is the site’s page on “Ishmael”. An excerpt from Amazon which has some interesting parallels to Cho’s manic writings. .

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “More Ishmael References”

  1. ordi says:


    It appears Mac may have another thread in the mystery of what caused Cho to do what he did. It appears Cho may have wanted to be a movie star.

    Cho copied movie killings


  2. Soothsayer says:

    Don’t forget Moby Dick. The first line is “Call me Ishamel” as the narrator sets the stage for the story. And Ishmael is the ONLY survivor , once AHab’s obsessive pursuit of the whale – which is deemed unholy because it is inspired by revenge rather than profit.

  3. crosspatch says:

    But did those Ishmaels have an ax? The only one that has an ax is the one in The Prairie. The ax is symbolic, indeed Ishmael is symbolic in the story. But Ishmael’s Ax is from the Prairie.

  4. MerlinOS2 says:


    To try to trace this is trying to delve into the mind of a non functional individual.

    My TV is locked onto the cartoon network, so I didn’t see the vids that were placed out there.

    Did he expand or explain the reference that was so important to him?

    I ain’t got a clue since I didn’t watch it.

    I am giving up on this subject simply because I am not following it and further comment by me will be non informed and less than useless.

    Oh and I am not trying in any way to kick the can.

  5. crosspatch says:

    I can’t for the life of me understand this fascination with the Ishmael character. Why have there been so many threads on so many web pages dwelling on it, digging into it … it doesnt matter! The guy was freakin’ insane! He was a nut. It really doesn’t “mean” anything to anyone but him. Honestly, why the fascination? You guys are doing *exactly* what he probably wanted you to do, you are *still* talking about it. This guy and his Ishmael need to fade into oblivion.

  6. akauses says:

    Just wanted to interject, the family, I believe including this evil murderer, spent approx. 10 years in Saudi Arabia prior to moving to Virginia. I picked this up from Savage who is asking why no one is speaking of this especially in connection with the Ismael Ax on his arm and on the package. I’m trying to get a second source on this connection.

  7. crosspatch says:

    Oh for crying out loud, Akauses, that is such a load of nonsense.

    Read this analysis if the Cooper work. This was written long before this act.

    Anyone who is even remotely associating this act with Islamist fascism is simply attempting to twist things into their pre-determined view. Just like people who attempt to twist things in the Litvinenko case to justify their pre-determined conclusion that he was assassinated by Putin.

    The kid was insane. He would grab at whatever reference he possibly could to “justify” his actions. But the Ax of Ishmael is to me an extremely clear reference to Cooper’s work.

  8. crosspatch says:

    Honestly this entire Ishmael obsession is something that reminds me that 50% of the population is of below the median intelligence level. Lord knows we didn’t look through his wallet. What might some bit of content in there “mean”? What about the way he left the papers on his desk … was his chair facing Mecca? Jeeez.

    It is so obvious the message is that he is the product of our own excess. He is saying that this happened because of our own cultural weakness. That is consistent with his message in the videos and in his writing. HE himself was “Ishmael’s Ax” … he was a personification of that ax. He himself was American culture destroying itself. He sent that stuff to the NBC news office to allow that destruction to continue after his death. It has nothing at all to do with Islam or religion at all. It has everything to do with a very angry young man who wanted to create as much destruction as he possibly could. His message is that our culture is sending us on the path to destruction. NBC playing those videos was his “proof”. He knew they wouldn’t be able to resist playing them. He also has a pretty good idea that the showing of them will cause follow on murders. He thinks he is a spark and the media will fan the flame and our culture itself is the fuel that will feed that flame.

  9. crosspatch says:

    An example buried in that analysis ..

    In short, as Allan Axelrad demonstrated at length in History and Utopia, his book-length study of Cooper’s world view, Cooper seems obsessed with the idea that human success inevitably brings about its own destruction.

    And that is exactly what I think Cho was getting at.

  10. crosspatch says:

    Also, I knew this was going to be the root of the issue:

    BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) – Long before he boiled over, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui was pushed around and laughed at as a schoolboy in suburban Washington because of his shyness and the strange, mumbly way he talked, former classmates say.

    He was probably tormented from the time he got here.