Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rantings: On Banning Books and Censorship

A few minutes ago, I was skulking around my Dashboard page on Blogger and I saw that my friend Ezra had made a post with a very interesting title: Censorship of Huckleberry Finn.

I started to type a comment at the bottom of her post, but then I realized that I had a lot to say about this. So I'm moving here and I hope that she'll see it (I'm pretty sure she will).

First of all, on the subject of banning books. I don't agree with this practice. I once read an article about something similar. Perhaps you've heard about this too. This woman's eleven-year-old daughter was reading this book with her classmates. Soon after they started reading, she began to have nightmares regarding this book. Her mother goes to the school board and tells them that this book is inappropriate for her child and for the other children in that class. First of all, who is she to say what the other kids in the class can handle? Yes, the fact that twenty-four people between the ages of twelve and eighteen are supposed to kill each other is disturbing and inappropriate, but that's the point of the book. Katniss and the others see how disturbing this practice is and that's why they begin to plot against the Capitol so that this madness can stop and the Capitol won't have complete reign over the twelve districts of Panem. Suzanne Collins meant for her audience to experience feelings like this; shock at what the people in the Hunger Games are having to go through, disturbance, etc.

Just to stir up some sort of reaction to this, don't you think that this is a good thing that this woman's daughter reacted the way she did? Nightmares aren't fun, we know this. But the fact that she had this strong of a reaction to this book shows that she isn't desensitized and a lot of people aren't desensitized about this either. I'm sure there were plenty of hearts pounding while reading this book, because it was powerful.

Returning to the general subject of banning books...

My personal belief is that if you have a problem or some sort of hang-up with a particular book, that should just mean that you don't have to read it or finish it. If you're bothered by excessive swearing or sex scenes of all types or different ideologies, you don't have to read it. No one is making you. If you're reading a book for school or for class that you're offended by, you should ask your teacher about the reasons for picking this book or asking if there is an alternative. Just because you don't like the book for whatever reason doesn't mean you should keep other people from being able to read that book. You don't know those other children. They have had different experiences than you and they can handle things better than you [or your kids].

On that note, I'm thinking about that poor little eleven-year-old girl... what if the kids start making fun of her for being afraid of certain things in The Hunger Games? What if they start attacking her because her mother spoke up and demanded that the book should be banned? I feel bad for that girl... kids are cruel, especially to each other...

Back to what Ezra was talking about though...

The article she was referring to said that Huckleberry Finn was being banned because of the excessive use of the "N" word (a total of 219 times, according to that article).

This probably doesn't sound very good coming from a white girl, but I don't believe that they should have done that. Huck Finn is set in the Southern United States, where slavery was legal until 1865 when the 13th Amendment was passed on January 31. Before and even after that time, people used the "N" word. by taking out this word, you are removing a certain amount of authenticity, which doesn't seem quite right to me. By taking this word out, you are denying that there was a certain hatred towards a very celebrated group of people. Without that word, you are cutting the intensity of this hatred that many people felt and future generations-- my children, my children's children-- aren't going to know just what it was like to live in a society that was once this way. Words are powerful weapons are now you're just going to say that this never happened? I'm interested in seeing what the replacement word is...

Now I defend my integrity...

I do not believe that it is ever okay to use the "N" word or any of it's variations. It's offensive and just plain cruel. I'm always confused when I hear someone who is African American say those words. It hurts me, even as a Caucasian. It's like saying "That's so gay" or "retarded" as a synonym for stupid or dumb or something along the lines of that. It's not okay and it never will be, because every time you say that, you're offending someone out there, whether they hear you say it or not. I do not say these words or phrases. Not even when I read them somewhere.

One of my favorite holidays is Banned Books Week (September 25 to October 2). Okay, so it's not a calendar-recognized holiday, but it definitely should be. This week celebrates our freedom to read what we will, so banned or challenged are showcased and celebrated.

Some of my favorite banned/challenged books:
Forever-- Judy Blume (excessive sex scenes)
The Bermudez Triangle-- Maureen Johnson (Gay/Lesbian themes)
Jane Eyre-- Charlotte Bronte (I never found out just why this book was challenged or banned)
And of course there are others...

Hoo... Okay, so even though this was a really long and passionate speech up there, this was still a lot of fun. I think I need to respond to articles more often. I won't make it a weekly thing, but whenever a really interesting article comes up on the internet or in the newspaper.

Thank you so much for reading! Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts on anything mentioned above. Thank you Ezra (<--Clicky, clicky!) for bringing this to my attention, I don't think I would have posted otherwise :) If you haven't checked out Ezra's blog, I highly suggest that you do. She's a fun person and she talks about the most interesting things!

Thanks again.



  1. I completely agree with you. I was appalled when I heard about replacing the "N" word. Yes, it's offensive. Yes, it's hurtful. But that's the point. One of the main points of the book is the complicated friendship that comes between two people of very different social status. Replacing that word with "slave" is less effective -- it may get the point across, but "slave" does not have the same emotional power of the "N" word. And like you said, it gets rid of some of the authenticity. That's what Jim would have been called during that time period.

    And as for the book banning, that has always bothered me. It's exactly like you said, if you don't like it don't read it! Simple as that. Just because it doesn't fit in with your view of the world doesn't mean you should ban it, because then you're forcing others to conform to your views when they don't necessarily agree with them.

  2. I want to get all of the anti-censorship people I know together for a big protest against the censoring of huck Finn. This is just ridiculous. I'm really angry about this. I hate the n word too but come on! If they can hearnitnin rap music for no particular reason then they can read it in a classic book. Mark twain is turning over in his grave... And I'm sure so is every other artist who's work has ever been censored.


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