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A Study of The Illiteracy Effect in The Book of Eli and Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass

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Words: 907 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Words: 907|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Dec 12, 2018

Literacy is vital to a better quality of life as well as a source of power. Without it, people would not have a practical way to record and share wisdom and ideas for prosperity. Literacy gives people power to unlocking knowledge they may have otherwise been unable to attain themselves. Book of Eli, a film about a man who owns the last remaining copy of the Bible in a post-apocalyptic world, and Learning to Read and Write, a short essay by Fredrick Douglas about an African slave learning to read and write in secret, both stand as fine embodiments of the idea that literacy is vital to a better quality of life as well as a source of power.

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Ignorance may be bliss, but it is equally dangerous. As seen in the film Book of Eli, those who are not literate often live in servitude and extreme poverty, unlike those who can read and write. Examples of such characters are Carnagie’s henchman who brings him books in exchange for commodities such as food and water and Solara, the daughter of Carnagie’s mistress. In Learning to Read and Write, Douglas makes it clear that most slaves are made to stay illiterate so to keep them from gaining their own freedom. Douglas realizes that he can escape his servitude by learning to read and write. Other slaves were not as lucky, their lack of literary skills and the cruel slave-owners that oversaw them kept them in constant abuse and neglect of basic human rights. To lack the basic skills of reading and writing is to lack a vast potential knowledge and limits one in modern society.

One of modern society’s defining characteristics is how people keep written records of almost all human knowledge. This is so it can be revisited as needed and revised as advancements are made. As seen by Carnagie’s collection and the one on the colony in Alcatraz, all that is known of the world before the nuclear war is collected from surviving records recovered from debris. The people who dwell in both these places are seen to be prosperous and literate, which go hand-in-hand. Since Civilization in Book of Eli has devolved into an anarchic wasteland, official records are rarely kept. From this case, it can be established that the keeping of records is linked to a civil society, and the lack thereof can be linked to a primitive way of life.

Literature is the keeper of knowledge, and with that knowledge comes great power. In Learning to Read and Write, Fredrick Douglas is able to eventually escape servitude by forging the slave owner’s signature after learning to read and write. By learning literacy, he was given the power to rise up from the shackles of injustice and inform himself of his own rights as a human being. In Book of Eli, those who are literate and understand the importance of literacy hold the most power. The best representatives of this are Carnagie and Eli. Carnagie is shown to have a vast library, implying that he is very knowledgeable. Simultaneously, Carnagie is shown to possess the main source of water, as well as other precious commodities like food, alcohol, and shelter.

Literacy has the power to set people free. At the end of Book of Eli, the main character arrives at a colony where survivors pool their knowledge of the ‘old world’ and are pictured to live happier, more enlightened lives. Solara and her mother are also able to escape with Eli because of his literacy and the girls’ willingness to learn it. Similarly, in Fredrick Douglas’ On Learning to Read and Write, he is, in a literal sense, able to release himself from slavery by applying reading and writing skills he acquired in secret over the years. The ability to read and write is an important skill in modern society because it unlocks precious knowledge that could mean life or death.

Literacy is linked to a happier and healthier lifestyle. As in both examples of The Book of Eli and Fredrick Douglas’ Learning to Read and Write, the ones who are able to read are depicted to be wealthier in knowledge, which is a critical form of wealth. In Fredrick Douglas’ paper, the lack of literacy is shown to be the most dangerous quality. The common denominator between all of those who are enslaved is that they are kept distant from the means of learning to read and write, thus are kept in the darkness of illiteracy. In Book of Eli, those who are literate are shown to be wealthier in aspects of money, knowledge, creature comforts, and power. While those who are not literate struggle to survive, and often lack basic human needs.

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To be literate is to be wealthy on a multitude of levels. One who is literate is wealthy in the sense that one is more in touch with reality, rather than blissful ignorance. One is also wealthy in knowledge, power, and freedom. With all these acquired attributes, one becomes enlightened and successful, more so than one would be if they were to be illiterate. Both Book of Eli and Fredrick Douglas’ Learning to Read and Write display prime examples and precautionary tales of what can happen when one finds themselves illiterate in modern society. Similarly, they show the limitless power that comes with the power, the knowledge, and wealth that comes with literacy.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

A Study of the Illiteracy Effect in the Book of Eli and Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-study-of-the-illiteracy-effect-in-the-book-of-eli-and-learning-to-read-and-write-by-fredrick-douglas/
“A Study of the Illiteracy Effect in the Book of Eli and Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-study-of-the-illiteracy-effect-in-the-book-of-eli-and-learning-to-read-and-write-by-fredrick-douglas/
A Study of the Illiteracy Effect in the Book of Eli and Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-study-of-the-illiteracy-effect-in-the-book-of-eli-and-learning-to-read-and-write-by-fredrick-douglas/> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
A Study of the Illiteracy Effect in the Book of Eli and Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-study-of-the-illiteracy-effect-in-the-book-of-eli-and-learning-to-read-and-write-by-fredrick-douglas/
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