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Chelz asked in Social ScienceSociology · 1 decade ago

Explanation for illiteracy among a post-apocalyptic society?

I wrote a story for my creative writing course that opened with a couple of characters in a post-apocolyptic setting trying to read a book they found, and my professor later asked me to include an explanation as to why they were illiterate.

When I wrote it, I didn't think much about why. I suppose I figured they didn't think it was worth it to know and, if anything, transferred information via an oral tradition. I'd set the story long after the apocalyptic event, such that the characters' grandparents weren't even around when it happened, and the cause (ex. nuclear war, epidemic, etc.) was never revealed, and I never even decided on one.

My professor said that even communities like the Amish value literacy, and there was no reason for a society to stop teaching their children to read. I see his point, but at the same time, I think the Amish would value reading because they have to be able to read the Bible. I'm kind of frustrated because I can't come up with an explanation that would satisfy him. Any ideas?

3 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    I think that in a post-apocolyptic world we will lose a lot of the values we stand for, including literacy, etiquette, and humanitarianism. People will be too busy trying to survive. It takes energy and focus to learn how to read, and if someone hasn't mastered basic reading skills so it becomes an automatic process, you will find reading going by the wayside. Remember, most people in the US have about a 6th grade reading level anyway, and the focus is now on audio-visual data streams rather than reading simple text. So what will happen? People will be so busy foraging and focusing on other things that reading will likely become an elitist behavior, and the working people will become illiterate, instead relying on word of mouth stories. Good luck with your story!

  • 1 decade ago

    if several generations have passed since the even would it be possible that the language could have evolved since the time that the book was written to their current state? I could see a major event like that eradicating a conventional education system and possibly changing the meaning of some words or creating new words entirely. think about how hard it is to read Shakespeare now, or even tom sawyer when that was written only a few generations ago. also if the even forced people away from largely populated areas would it be possible that access to books would become largely limited? You could also make up a new social taboo to go along with the reading that people who had the time to read are looked down upon because that is time that could be used to help what little society is left keep itself stable by doing chores. just some ideas, good luck!

  • 1 decade ago

    After the collapse of the Roman Empire, literacy went way down. These were the Dark Ages. Literacy existed mostly in the monasteries.So the first answerer is closest. There is evidence that an apocalypse happened in the sixth century A.D., from a huge volcanic explosion. Crops failed, people starved, disease was prevalent, and times were very bad. They were the Dark Ages, 600 AD to 1300 AD. Our civilization is a very fragile thing. It took probably 250,000 years to make it. It's only 6,000 years old. Your teacher is not quite correct. It would not bounce back so easily from a big disaster.

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