Banned Books Week—How Far is Too Far?
To think that a novel like Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” graces the list of “Banned Books” as recent as 2011 was at first, laughable.
But upon further thought, to an English Literature major, it seemed almost… offensive. A work having so much influence upon the formal practice of prose writing being banned on the basis of what I can only refer to as the Crime of Diction, or, more formally, “offensive language”, is fruitless. Your children have heard far worse in the halls of their high schools, written on the feeds of their webpages, alluded to in songs on the radio and countless other surreptitious influences in their daily routines.
Haven’t we acknowledged yet that the majority of the targeted age-group has become desensitized to any language officially deemed “offensive?” Are we still concerned with the corruption of our twelfth grade masses when television and social networking pick up the slack that “improper” literature would miss anyway?
Books like “Twilight,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and whatever other craze has the multitudes fuming at being on the list make more sense to me. These novels can more appropriately be considered indecent in a high school setting. But to attack such literary classics as Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” and withhold them from appropriately-aged students is mutinous—novels like these are necessities, staples in surviving the literary world. They should be properly experienced, pored over, absorbed and observed.
Another frequently banned novel, Voltaire’s “Candide” is one of my personal favorites. To think that any high school student will be missing out on the volatile humor that Voltaire exudes in “Candide” is saddening, at the least. Not to mention that within the work, while it has its satirical moments (even if those moments are 95 percent of the novel), there is still a lot to be gained from its reading. I’ve personally always loved that bit from the Old Woman, who, upon hearing the incessant whining of Candide’s dear Cunegonde, lashes out in telling her own tragic story and ends by saying:
“I have been a hundred times on the point of killing myself, but still was fond of life. This
ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our worst instincts. What can be more absurd
than choosing to carry a burden that one really wants to throw to the ground? To
detest, and yet to strive to preserve our existence? To caress the serpent that devours
us, and hug him close to our bosoms till he has gnawed into our hearts?”