Across the country, books are being banned from classrooms. A growing list of titles are seen as inappropriate and no longer suitable for mass audiences, especially children. While there exist valid reasons for banning books in schools, it is important to note that the negative effects of the notion far outweigh the reasons for banning.
The Case Against Banning Books
To further understand why schools choose to ban books in the first place, a discussion on the reasons should be appropriate. The main reason why books are deemed inappropriate and therefore banned, is that people feel that the book contains themes or actions unfit. There are many factors that come into play, such as racism, criticism of religion, radical political views, or the unorthodox lifestyles they present. Some books are also banned for content considered unsuitable for young audiences. Such things can be the concept of excessive alcohol consumption, violence, illicit sex, and drug use. These things are legitimate reasons, yes, but one cannot deny the fact that there is far more danger in holding back knowledge a book presents someone, especially those who seek to learn.
There are plenty of valid reasons why books should not be banned. Doing so prevents people from learning about the harsh and unsettling truths in life, which are often reflected in books tackling sensitive themes. Banning books, as such, robs people of the knowledge they would need to grow. It is important to argue, too, that books remain as sources of history, human emotions, and different perspectives about the world. There is so much to gain from books, overflowing with real human experiences that is made available to the reader written in pages. They inspire people and motivate discussion, helping individuals think and form their own opinions. All of these create lasting effect on not only individuals, but the rest of society. They become tickets to different worlds outside one’s own, and quite literally broaden one’s horizons. So many words depict history and foreshadow man’s future, and to prevent someone from receiving knowledge that is rightfully theirs is inherently wrong. Some of the books to be discussed in this essay are banned from schools, but there are strong reasons as to why they shouldn’t be.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is the most banned book in schools, with its ban running for two entire decades, dating back to 1961. Despite this, however, it has become the second-most taught titles in schools, which most deem as the most appropriate book for misunderstood teenagers trying to get through puberty. Profanity, frustrated sexuality, and anti-authority are central to the plot, also the very reasons for the book’s banning. Despite this, nearly 250,000 copies are sold each year. In spite of the heavy story, The Catcher in the Rye proves to be an effective form of storytelling as it depicts the pains of growing up. Most analyses delve into the main character, Holden Caulfield, and deem the story as his slow transition to maturity, something which teenagers will inevitably go through. More than that, there is the “phoniness” of the adult world, which teaches young adults about the truth of the adult life – there is superficiality, hypocrisy, pretense, and shallowness, far from the sparkly image most teenagers perceive adulthood. The story encourages growth and maturity – one cannot simply just trap teenagers in a bubble of positivity and giggly ideals.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is part of the list that has been banned, for reasons like the depiction of racism, profanity, and unjust treatment of women. All of these reasons are valid enough to ban the book, but the story was written and produced the Great Depression, a time of turmoil and desperation that not only repressed the economy, but corrupted morality. Such a time reflected the truths about society. Racism was rampant, and women were treated like chattel. The harsh economic climate brought out the worst in people, depicted as truthfully as possible in the novel. There is predatory air plaguing human nature depicted in the plot, which can be seen in most of the characters, all of whom desire comfort and interaction. And borne of these vulnerabilities is the tendency to oppress others. The novel also tackles the American Dream, and the dark side of it. The bitter reality of the times points out that it can’t simply be, no matter how hard you try and dream. For George and Lennie, it was owning their own farm one day. The journey wakes George from the impossible ideals, and the paradise that comes from the realization of these dreams may not always be a reality – not everything is in your hands. In themes like these, mere knowledge can help someone wake up from the trance about the lures of the American Dream, or idealized dreams in general. The world isn’t simply black and white, and there are gray areas and other colors to inspect. The book encourages resilience and awareness.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, despite being banned, continues to cause ripples across the world. Set in a world wherein books are banned, the plot itself speaks volumes and volumes of depth, and the themes just strengthen it. Despite the explicit sexual content and insensitivity, the book continues to dominate due to its depiction of a society controlled by a singular source of power. There are dangers surrounding state control over new and powerful technologies, including the development of the consumer society. If analyzed carefully, you will be able to see the parallelism of the world in the story and our very own, albeit slightly less developed. We may very well be on our way, considering current issues like book banning and the rising battle against social media. Brave New World also exists to tell the truth about all-powerful autocratic states, with hungry and greedy leaders controlling society and its people. More than being a warning to the possibilities of where society can end up should things go wrong, the novel is also a satire of the society where Huxley himself lived in, and how society is today. The book helps readers understand a world beyond their own, and a society living in a system they can break, if they choose to. The book gives them the power to think for themselves for the betterment of the world, a quality essential to human survival. Otherwise, soon enough we’ll be living a world like that in Brave New World.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov has been banned not only in America, but in various parts of the world, denounced solely for its explicit depiction of pedophilia. Despite references to rape, sexual harassment, murder, and of course, the crime of pedophilia, Lolita holds cultural value. Such value comes with the truth surrounding the power of words. Humbert recounts his story of his love story with Lolita, and the language he uses turns the horrible tale enchanting. There are many literary allusions, puns, and linguistic patterns that make the story sound beautiful. Nabokov, by doing this, makes it known that Humbert’s power lies in his words and ability to weave them. He seduces the reader the same way he seduces Lolita, where he uses words to charm and confuse. As much as the story seems to be justified in his perspective, Nabokov’s intentions remain the same: to emphasize that pedophilia is, and will always be, criminal. If you look at statistics now, there is much to combat about pedophilia. It exists slyly, carefully, and the innocence of the youth can easily be manipulated. While difficult, the book provides an avenue where people can openly understand just how horrible pedophilia can be, and why we should continuously be fighting it.
The books mentioned are merely a fraction of the list of books banned. Many books, despite being regarded as necessary for literature education and American history, continue to be banned and challenged, with titles including The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Color Purple by Alice Walker, among others. All of these hold significant value and continue to help readers acquire a better grasp of the world, along with their place in it. Banning these books is the same as locking people, especially students, away from the essential cultural and historical knowledge, along with various life perspectives, all of which contribute to significant growth. Neil Gaiman, a well-known author, postulates that the easiest way to make sure that we raise learned children is to teach them the joys of reading, finding them books that they can relish, and giving them access to those books.
In the simplest sense of arguing why books should not be banned, books serve as a portal to various worlds and experiences. It encourages social, emotional, and mental development, and promotes a deep sense of perspective about the world. Despite insensitive and downright explicit themes that these banned books hold, they are mirrors to bitter and uncomfortable realities which we cannot simply censor or hide away. In fact, doing so will only cause more harm than good. A mind manipulated to think of only good things or see the world as simply black and white seriously threatens humanity’s survival. Remember that a strong mind that cannot be swayed easily is feared by the oppressors, and a world of knowledge can never be subjected to such.
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