Three commonly known books that have been banned in libraries around the world. According to the American Libraries magazine, from 1982 to 2015, 11,300 books were challenged and/or banned… but why such a big number? Reasons for banning books range from the usage of a single distasteful word to explicit descriptions of sexual content. With such a large variety of reasons and such a large number of banned books, we must ask ourselves if it is okay to censor works simply because we don’t like something about them.
First, let’s examine types of works or instances in which it would be plausible to ban or censor a book. Suppose there is a book in which all it reads is praise for horrific acts such as murder or child abuse. Such a book should, in my opinion, definitely be banned from public libraries to ensure that the book doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. This example is obviously an extreme case, however. What about more likely and common reasons books are banned or censored? Let us examine To Kill a Mockingbird.
According to Becky Little in her article “Why ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Keeps Getting Banned,” “challenges to the book over the past century have usually cited the book’s strong language, discussion of sexuality and rape, and use of the n-word.” While these topics are heavily discussed within the novel, I do not agree that the book should be censored, as the book does not promote or praise any of these actions. To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in America in the late 1930’s, a time in which racism was rampant across the States, thus, it makes perfect sense for a story set in that time to have heavy racism within it, especially with one of the main characters, Tom Robinson, being a black man. False rape accusations against black men were common in this time period. One of the most famous court cases involving false rape accusations took place in 1931. The “Scottsboro Boys” case involved two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, who accused a group of nine black men of raping them on a train. Five out of nine of them were found guilty. Overall, the censorship of To Kill a Mockingbird is not only a censorship of a great literary work, but a censorship of the deep history it portrays to us.
The reasons listed for banning To Kill a Mockingbird only barely scratch the surface on reasons for banning books. A classic example of a reoccurring banned book is none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Reasons for banning The Great Gatsby include language, sexual content, alcohol use, and partying, all which display acts of rebellion. Similar to To a Kill a Mockingbird, at first it may appear as if the censorship of the book is necessary, but we must look at it from a historical perspective. The Great Gatsby takes place during the “Roaring 20’s” era in America, which was a time of economic boom, extensive wealth, and overall happiness in most of America. The book follows a man named Jay Gatsby, a man who prospers due to this boom in the American economy. Throughout the story, Gatsby throws many parties which involve alcoholic beverages, drug usage and sexual acts, all of which one would find in many of the parties thrown by the rich during this time period. The book also shows a clear divide between the rich and the poor during the time, as shown by the character Wilson, which also adds to the historical accuracy.
Overall, rather than censoring or banning these books, we should be encouraging people to read them. Books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby are overflowing with American history, different points of view, and simply different life experiences to which we should all be exposed. The solution to creating independent thinkers isn’t to blind people from the sometimes harsh realities of the world, but rather to enlighten them on situations that they could fix. Our goal as a society should be to guide people into the direction of knowledge and truth, not to make them into mindless zombies that believe only what the government or other groups want them to. The only way we can do that is to allow people to broaden their perspectives. The only way we can do that is to let people read.