| Quote #1
"[…] they were teaching us how to read. The symbols under the picture were the letters R-A-T. But the idea did not become clear to me, nor to any of us, for quite a long time. Because, of course, we didn't know what reading was." (17.26)
Learning to read is hard enough when you know what reading is. Just imagine how hard it is when you have no idea what it means or what it can do for you. After all, these rats never had anyone read them bedtime stories. Their journey towards literacy must be triple tough in that case.
| Quote #2
"Oh, we learned to recognize the shapes easily enough, and when I saw the rat picture I knew straight away what symbols would appear beneath it […] I even learned that when the photograph showed not one but several rats, a fourth shape would appear under it—a snaky line—and the sound with that one was 'ess- ess- ess.' But as to what all this was for none of us had any inkling." (17.28)
At this point, the rats remain confused. Why are these weird humans showing them all these pictures and making all these weird sounds at them? Because the rats have never heard of reading, they don't yet see the value in what they are learning. Not yet, that is…
| Quote #3
"The top line of black marks on the wall were instantly familiar: R-A-T-S; as soon as I saw them I thought of the picture that went with them; and as soon as I did that I was, for the first time, reading. Because of course, that's what reading is: using pictures to suggest an image or idea." (17.34)
This description of reading is pretty profound if you ask Shmoop. Once we know how to read, we often take it for granted. But Nicodemus's world is so transformed by his ability to read, that there is no way he'll forget what it was like.