Saturday, August 9, 2014

Discussing "Earth Abides" by George R. Stewart

Wow!  Thanks to David for suggesting this book...even if it was terribly disturbing to me.  I am SO sorry that I'm going to miss the book discussion on Monday.  I would love to hear other people's reactions to the book.
"Earth Abides" is the story of Isherwood Williams, a young geologist who survives a pandemic of a virus that wipes out all but a tiny percentage of the world's people. 
I was really troubled by Ish's failure to teach the children to read and write.  If you want a generation to wind up enslaved; give up on education.  I don't recall Ish ever talking about reading to the children.  I  learned to read by being read to by my parents and older siblings.  As long as the people can read and write, they will be able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before.
Maybe getting the power plants up and running again was an impossible task, but the libraries were RIGHT THERE! 
I thought Ish had a fairly low opinion of the people around him too.  His fixation on Joey tells me that he was a lousy teacher.  A good teacher uncovers the potential in each student.  I think we've all sat in classrooms with a teacher who had a "pet" with all the answers.  Those situations left me feeling hopeless.
I disliked Ish when he actually considered the possibility of "living like a king" on the backs of that little group of black farmers.
I found his attitude toward women also very condescending.
A little of the "eugenics" theory of that era is also reflected in Ish's attitude toward Evie.
I suppose "Earth Abides" reflects the thinking of the time.  Maybe Geroge R. Stewart didn't intend for Ish to be so much a real "hero" as a cautionary tale of what happens when you don't respect the people around you enough to see them as equals?
Otherwise, despite our iPads, networks, satellites, etc, we would find ourselves very much in Ish's post apocalyptic world with even more useless technology.  I found that scenario very believable and frightening.  I wanted to root for Ish and the others to find some utopian world, but in the the end, I thought he was self-absorbed and foolish for missing his chance to teach the next generation to read and value knowledge.  Reading this book during the Ebola Crisis, was kind of eerie.  

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