Vocab Flashback

01 Dec

The Return of the Native chapter 1

“The untameable, Ishmaelitish thing that Egdon now was it always had been.” 

Like Ishmael?
As in “Call me Ishmael” from Moby-Dick?

Way back when, we found the word quixotic in Oliver Twist and learned that Dickens was a fan of Cervantes.

I wonder if Hardy was a fan of Melville.

or maybe Hardy was a fan of the Bible.  Do you know who Ishmael was?  He was the son of Abraham and Hagar.  Nope, not Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham and Hagar.  She was Sarah’s Egyptian servant.  (Genesis 16).  Later Hagar and Ishmael were sent away from Abraham’s family to wander in the wilderness. (Genesis 21).

Today the word Ishmaelite can mean a descendent of Ishmael or it can mean someone who is a wanderer or cast out.

I get Melville’s name choice for his character, but how can Hardy call a place Ishmaelitish?
Is Egdon Heath a rejected place?  Does it refer to the untamed wilderness?  Is it a cast off?

Ishmaelitish.  Try to work that one into daily conversation.


Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Moby-Dick, The Return of the Native


Tags: , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “Vocab Flashback

  1. Gina Monge

    December 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I have a footnote after “Ismaelitish” in my edition – “Literally, an ‘outcast’, and hence ‘cast out from’ or ‘beyond the pale of’ normal human society. Ishmael was case out by his father, Abraham, after the birth of Isaac, and banished to the wilderness with his mother (Genesis 21).”
    And my edition has a glossary also! A little bit overwhelming at first!

  2. Gina Monge

    December 3, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Speaking of unusual words, I came across “reddleman” in chapter 2 – here’s an interesting article about it:

    • Jeannette

      December 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Thanks, Gina. Interesting.


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