Banned and Controversial Books in the United States

It is common knowledge that the United States is a bastion of democracy and freedom, and it holds true to this day, albeit for some “exceptions” – literature is one prime example. Sparking endless debates both mundane and intellectual, books in the United States still get the cold shoulder or become banned altogether due to a variety of “reasons” – moral, religious, racial, and even mere, unsubstantiated claims of inappropriate content. If you are wondering about the nature of the books that were once banned or challenged or at least considered controversial, or even taboo, you are in for an unpleasant surprise. These books do not come anywhere near promoting hate or elements that ought to be outlawed, but the exact opposite. They are mind-enriching classics that must be taken up by all students mature enough to understand their themes – the nuances and various states of life, and the human condition in general.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Intellectual freedom is supposed to be limitless. Unfortunately, the Office for Intellectual Freedom is relentlessly bombarded with requests from countless groups and individuals to remove or permanently ban certain books, for reasons that are sometimes, sadly, not within the realm of common sense. Books, however “inappropriate,” serve a noble purpose – it proliferates awareness and enables juxtaposition between good and bad literature, knowledge and ignorance, morality and immorality, fantasy and reality, among others. When the freedom to read is infringed, acquisition of knowledge is stunted, and a generation suffers.

The inclusion of these landmark literary classics in the academic curricula still raises eyebrows up to this day. But good literature is good literature. Hats off to the guardians of education who continue to defy parties that wish to deprive a knowledge-hungry populace.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

To say that this book is banned, challenged, and controversial is a huge understatement. The themes of pedophilia/hebephilia and incest are focal points of the novel, encapsulated in the romantic relationship between a young, sexually precocious girl and a middle-aged man. The story tackles themes that even 21st century society considers taboo, enough reason for it to not belong on the archetypal fiction shelf, that is, if unenlightened parties are to judge.

lolita by vladimir nabokov
However, hebephilia (and pedophilia) and incest are real, and as such, banning the book will only stir confusion rather than rouse the urge to seek sound explanation. The novel, due to its “disturbing” themes, holds distinction due to the “need” to read and analyse it from a psychological standpoint. In a nutshell, it is majestic literature that abundantly illustrates the unexplored and often inglorious side of humans that the majority of the populace find disgusting.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Published prior to the turn of the 20th century, this is one novel in the list that was neither officially banned nor explicitly challenged. In its time, it was deeply frowned upon by traditionalists.  Kate Chopin’s evocative style of writing is perfect fit to tell the story of a woman whose life is shackled by marriage and societal norms, yearning to break out of the orthodox confines in order to follow a secret love. Eliciting firm disapproval from its critics who reasoned that the novel glorified marital infidelity, it is viewed as a turning point in American literature’s view on feminism. Due to its genuine narrative, scathing social commentary, and realistic complexity, it holds its place not only in the core of the feminist movement, but in American literature. The universal theme centers in the search for love, care, and deeper purpose in life.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Set during the height of the Great Depression, the story centers on the travels, travails, and the search for a more promising life of two desperate migrant workers whose contrasting dispositions could not be more pronounced. Profanity, racial slurs, criticism of religion, and blasphemy are among the reasons why it still draws the ire of conservative Americans. Steinbeck masterfully highlights the nuances in attitude, outlook, tendencies, and morals of both working-class and destitute Americans in the face of one of the disheartening periods in recent history. To ban this book is to take away from students of today the opportunity to enjoy literature that realistically depicts the Great Depression from an impoverished, hapless perspective.

of mice and men by john steinbeck

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Really needing no introduction, it is baffling as to why this book is banned, considered controversial, and challenged. It behoves any student to read and analyse this book to acquire a firmer understanding of the current state of race relations in American society. Occasional profanity and racial issues are among the reasons why it was and still is banned in some schools, a move viewed as hypocritical by many. Even if it is now included in the curricula, it is still regarded as unnecessary reading due to its overt depiction of racism. However, prohibiting the book from entering classrooms does not help in solving the issue of racism and discrimination towards African Americans; banning actually only aggravates the problem of racism today. The book’s power lies in its depiction of racism in America in the 1930s, decades before the civil rights movement would dramatically alter race relations. In today’s turbulent times wherein lack of historical perspective is embarrassingly commonplace, this book is all the more needed in classrooms.

banned books in America

The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Frequently banned from the curricula in many parts of the country, the book has since been a staple in many schools. Violence, racism, animal cruelty are cited as the primary reasons behind the ban. Furthermore, the author’s brand of writing is tagged as prejudiced towards indigenous people as he underscores comparisons of the emboldened boys’ regression from civilized to unrestrained behavior in an uninhabited island to the dated misconceptions of Native American and black savagery. However, it has to be understood that William Golding wrote the novel at a period when his perception was more or less representative of the Western perspective on the subject. He successfully highlights the vital role of nature and lack of structure in the boys’ descent to primitive state, using colorful imagery and comparisons that are now frowned upon. Still, the glimpse into what goes on inside the human mind is what makes this novel a must-read. It frequently lands in different versions of the great novels of the 20th century.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Only dysfunctional or Machiavellian governments should be angered by the content of this novel, so it is disheartening that it was banned in the United States, as well as the former Soviet Union, for quite some time. If the book indeed struck a bad chord with the leaders of these two superpowers, then the literature must be stupendous. Perhaps they banned the book for fear of a populace educating itself. Perhaps not. Perhaps they did not want any comparisons. Replete with deep satire, piercing allegories, and timeless political viewpoints, reading the novel is a consummate intellectual exercise due to George Orwell’s predilection for metaphors. That said, it is best for readers to come up with their own interpretation.

truths in banned books

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Equally banned, controversial, and challenged, there are only a few words potent enough to describe Brave New World: classic, timeless, and unique. One of the great dystopian novels of the past century, it contains heavy drug use, sex, and suicide. The timeless theme is the perpetual struggle of humans to carve out a better world for themselves amidst totalitarian injustice, detailing amorality and tendencies in the process. While the novel’s uniqueness and Huxley’s style epitomize boundless literary prowess, the dispute lingers as to whether it is to be recommended for high school reading, or for more advanced levels.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Easily the most famous censored book in the United States. Banned, challenged, and/or discouraged due to profanity, teenage rebellion, criticism of religion, references to alcohol and smoking, and prostitution, staunch opponents of J.D. Salinger’s magnum opus cite the aforementioned elements as reason enough to lobby to ban it in schools. However, it must be realised that Holden Caulfield’s character represents teenage angst, vehement rejection of traditional values, and instead espouses living life according to one’s wishes. Mirroring the issues consistently encountered by teenagers, the book is rife with casual references to “taboo” elements with a sense of vulgar yet reasonable questioning. From a philosophical standpoint, Holden Caulfield’s character promotes critical thinking, to question everything, and that nothing is above criticism.  

the catcher in the rye by jd salinger

Teenage angst, hypocrisy, irreligion, vices, prejudice, profanity, illicit sex. It is undeniably clear that all these themes, despite their unpleasant faces, are innately and truly human. The literary geniuses who wrote the aforementioned novels may have displeased narrow-minded enemies of knowledge, causing their work to be banned, but it is imperative to remember that these authors did not create entirely new entities of evil as they had been made to look like; they merely put forward issues that had been present for as long as humans have existed. Their work simply illuminated the “evils” abound, and the extraordinary manner by which they had done so is the reason why their novels are considered classics.

Essay writing help for students

These books are classics. What are the qualities of classic literature? Timelessness, truth, the ability to create a lasting connection with readers, and subject of endless discourse. Even when dealing with the morbid or sometimes gruesome side of man, or even if it sparks endless flurries of heated debate, no book should ever be completely banned, challenged, or considered controversial. Banning literature does not solve a particular issue, it only obscures and worsens it. Only by educated argumentation can issues be solved. Ironically, banned books actually hold greater power to resolve divisive issues because of an inescapable truth - every book carries with it an invaluable lesson on the universality of humanity.

That is what we at CustomEssayMeister want to emphasize to students like you. In the pursuit of knowledge, there are no taboos, and as such, we strongly encourage you to do your best to procure copies of these books, even if they are banned. The mere act of banning these books constitutes a legitimate betrayal of academic freedom. If you are in college, and even more so if you are a Literature or English or Philosophy major, this is the time to read these books so as to be enlightened not only about the wonders of timeless literature, but to equip yourself the ability to view life from a perceptive and nuanced perspective. This is what professors fail to realize, that they must not overwhelm students with a lot of essay writing and research writing, to the point that the poor students are left without time to devote to other equally important academic endeavors, like reading. If you are one of those students, do not hesitate to pick one of these books and leave the academic writing to us. We are enthused about the idea of helping you so you can experience holistic academic growth.