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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 29)...

    Why don't Ishmael and the narrator observe politically correct rules of gender-neutral language?

    ...and the response:

    Ishmael is not an essay written for an academic journal but rather a work of fiction, specifically a novel. In a novel, characters speak in accordance with their individual backgrounds and experiences, not in accordance with some committee's manifesto. Thus, in a novel, a 12-year-old crack dealer doesn't talk like a middle-aged librarian, and an ambassador doesn't talk like a stevedore. In THE STORY OF B, the narrator is a parish priest---someone who is used to being constantly judged by his language---and so, by habit, he's pretty consistently PC in his language. But when it comes to Ishmael, it would make no better sense for the narrator and his gorilla teacher to speak the language of political correctness than it would for them to speak the language of gangsta rap.


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