Banned Books. We have all heard the phrase before. Although most don’t think too much about it. What are the reasons behind banning these books? And if they are truly ‘banned’ why and how are people still reading them?
There are a set of reasons as to why a book may be banned and they are as follows:
- Racial Issues
- Encouragement of "Damaging" Lifestyles
- Blasphemous Dialogue
- Sexual Situations or Dialogue
- Violence or Negativity
- Presence of Witchcraft
- Religious Affiliations (unpopular religions)
- Political Bias
- Age Inappropriate
These are the 9 most common reasons for banning a book, and here are some examples of each:
1. Racial Issues
Due to our country's history, there are quite a few books that treat races differently based upon the color of their skin. Not only are characters within the book treated differently but derogatory words as used as well. A few examples include "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain and "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell.
2. Encouragement of "Damaging" Lifestyles
First off, "damaging" is a relative term. In this case, it includes anything that isn’t the perceived norm. Things outside of the norm include drug use, drinking under age, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality. While a few aren’t "damaging" lifestyles, they are still enough to get a book banned. Some examples include "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger and "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville.
3. Blasphemous Dialogue
This is basically anything that uses the words "God" or "Jesus" as forms of cuss words or anything that actively has something against Christianity. For example, the book "Farenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury was banned for having a bible burning in a passage.
4. Sexual Situations or Dialogue
I’m sure at this point in our lives we have come across at least one book that could fall under this category. So instead of outright banning all of them, many that haven’t been banned are censored to make it more appropriate for consumption. One of the reasons that "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald was banned was due to mere references to sex.
5. Violence or Negativity
This is a very broad and gray area as it applies to many classic novels. Anything that has too much violence (which is relative) or is too negative or sad is also fitting within this category based upon opinions. A few examples are "Native Son" by Richard Wright that includes sexual violence and is a very dark book. Another is "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London that has been deemed extremely violent and has overarching dark themes overall.
6. Presence of Witchcraft
This is always a fun one when involving the reasons all of the good books get banned. Some great examples of this one hard at work are the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling and "Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. I mean, come on, don’t ban those beautiful works of art.
7. Religious Affiliations or unpopular religions present
This presents a huge problem because in this case books are banned simply because they represent different beliefs than their own. A big example is the "Percy Jackson" series by Rick Riordan which incorporates Greek and Roman Mythology. This hasn’t been banned everywhere but in many libraries, it is banned simply because it presents a different religion to children.
8. Political Bias
This occurs in books that deal with extreme political ideas such as anarchism, fascism, and communism etc. There are many authors whose sole purpose is to speak out about anti-government themes. One such author is Kurt Vonnegut whose novel "Slaughter House-Five" deals with anti-government themes. As well as Nadine Gordimer whose novels "Burger's Daughter" and "July's People" were both banned for controversial and anti-government themes in her home country.
9. Age Inappropriate
Some books that have been aimed at younger people that were then later thought to have older themes were later banned. A few examples being "The Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum and "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak.
I personally don’t believe that there should ever be a banned book. Many of the books that have been banned have helped to shape history such as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "The Diary of Anne Frank" have both been banned. But if you are trying to ban books like that, you are trying to erase history and those that don’t acknowledge the past are forced to relive it.
And it isn’t just the historical books. Books such as "Harry Potter" have given so much joy to so many people, don’t try and take that away. Because once they start banning what we are able to read, the next is what we are able to write and say. Banning books is taking away freedom. And if that’s the case, why not rebel a little bit and read them all anyways?