by Grace Armstrong
Censorship is not just an issue that plagues the online world or the news. It is a long-standing phenomenon that has been occurring since the dawn of time and is something still very present in the literary world. Books may no longer be openly burned in public, but the frequency of which they are being banned and pulled from schools and libraries hasn’t stopped completely. But why are books still being banned and what can we learn from reading them? I’m here to break down 5 of my favourite banned books and tell you why they’ve been banned and how that’s exactly why you should read them.
1. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Probably the most pretentious one off my list, but a worthy read nonetheless. I’m sure some of you have not-so-fond memories of having to read and analyze this book back in high school and may be scarred trying to figure it out exactly where the ducks go during the winter time. BUT! It warrants a reread as an “adult” for the themes of phoniness in the adult world and fear of growing up that are interwoven throughout the novel. It was mainly banned for its profane language and sexual references. Holden is clearly an immoral and unreliable narrator, but what teenager isn’t? He’s lost, trying to figure out what he should be doing with his life, and frequently indulges in drinking and smoking to cope with this. Sounds like Foco to me!
2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
“Frankenstein is the name of the Doctor, not the monster!!!” Yes, we know, thank you to all the twitter film boys who are hung up on this. This book has continually been banned in the South because of how it depicts a man obsessed with creating life without any sort of divine intervention, directly going against the beliefs of many religions. The reason you should read this book, not just because of the beautiful writing and detailing of Dr. Frankenstein then being horrified and haunted by his creation, but because of the author! Yes, Mary Shelley, married to Percy Shelley and known to have an interesting relationship with the literary world’s greatest man-whore, Lord Byron, is the reason you should pick up this book. This novel helped prove that women were capable of making great literary masterpieces (obviously) and is credited as being one of the first-ever pieces of science fiction.
3. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
A fantasy classic and a shock to many that it has been banned so many times, this novel is considered to be “anti-religious” and “anti-Christian”, even though Tolkien himself was a devout Christian. Like Harry Potter and other classics that depict magic of any kind, it is considered to be promoting witchcraft and satanism. There is also considerable outcry at the inclusion of smoking in the novel and how this would be harmful to young children who read it. This is where many take issue with the banning of books. The main point of censorship in this context is for “protection” of the reader/children. This just fosters mass-amounts of ignorance. What should really be done is to let the children read the books with smoking and use it as a learning opportunity to teach them of the dangers of doing so themselves. It’s clear that the reasons this book was banned have no bearings on the beauty of it. Even if you’re not a fan of fantasy literature, Lord of the Rings is full of bountiful imagery and tales of the type of strong friendships one can only dream of ever having.
4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
One of my all-time favourite novels, if you’ve ever seen the movie Easy A, I URGE you to read this. Hawthorne himself has a very interesting history, descending from a judge of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, John Hawthorne. Because of this history and living in Salem, Hawthorne takes America’s Puritan past and puts it at the forefront of the novel. He holds nothing back in describing what the public would have done to a woman accused of adultery at this time. What many take issue with, is that we are made to feel sympathy for Hester Prynne, the protagonist, even though she has committed a greatly immoral act that makes some believe the book as being anti-religious. When really, you see a heroine trying to make the most out of her small life in Salem and is ostracized by others in public, but sought after for help by them in private. It’s really a book about the historical oppression of women, scapegoating, and acceptance.
5. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The movie that helped introduce white girls everywhere to the beauty that is The Smiths and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, two of this basic white girls favourite things! As much as I love the movie (one of the rare adaptations that I believe does the book justice) the book is just so beautifully written and heart-wrenching to not include on this list. This book was banned in the USA for addressing homosexuality, being sexually explicit, anti-family, using offensive language, having a religious viewpoint, and depicting drugs and suicide. Incidentally, these are the reasons why I think this book is incredibly important to readers. It’s an amazing look into the mind of a complex teenager and a remainder that you can’t always change what happens to you, but you can change what you do about it.