Apr 19 2007
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. .