Daniel Quinn's philosophical novel “Ishmael” begins with the reading of the newspaper. The narrator reads this newspaper with the interest especially one advertisement that was about the search of student, who wants to save the world. All his life, the narrator looked for such person and now he has found him. He has doubt about this ad, but he goes to the specified place. He sees only one gorilla in one of the offices that can speak with him telepathically. He understands that this gorilla will be his teacher that he sought.
The name of this gorilla is Ishmael. People captured him in the African jungles when he was young and all his life he lived in a cage so that's why Ishmael wants to help people break free from the cage own limitations. He lived in a zoo and traveling carnival and then he was bought by Walter Sokolow, who has taught him to speak telepathically. Walter Sokolow gave him the books and due to the telepathy, this person enlightened the gorilla. The first study of Ishmael was about captivity, the he made research about humanity and the shape of the world. As Sokolow died, Ishmael has got the property of this person. Now he does not depend on somebody and looks for students in order to promote his doctrines.
Ishmael and the narrator have a lot of meetings wherein Ishmael explains him the history of his culture. According to Ishmael, people are divided into two groups: Leavers and Takers. Takers are the representatives of the dominant culture, which think that they control the world and even the universe due to various technologies. Another group is leavers, which are the representatives of tribal cultures. They have a simple life and live according to fundamental regulations that regulate other life forms in the world. Ishmael claims that while the Taker culture has outsmarted the rules of ecology, largely this culture will fall because it exhausts the environmental resources of the world.
Moreover, Ishmael explains the narrator the features of Taker and Leaver cultures, showing him the origins of these cultures with the help of mythology. At first he tells the myth about Adam and Eve. The Takers think that the Christian religion gives the origins of their culture. Due to this myth, Leavers think that Takers are smarter because they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Such fact explains their behavior. The Takers consider that they acquired the knowledge of the gods, but it is wrong as it can not belong to anyone in the world.
Some days of their discussions were missed because of the personal affairs of the narrator. However, when the narrator comes back to the place of their lessons, he can not find this gorilla anywhere. He searched him for a long time and eventually found him in a traveling carnival. They met each other and continued their discussions. After some time, the narrator purchases him from the owner of the circus, but while he receives the money, Ishmael dies from pneumonia. The narrator decides to continue the deal of Ishmael and teach other people what this gorilla has taught him. He wants other people understand the evils which are associated with Taker culture.