How I learned to stop worrying and love censored books

Michael Capasse, Staff Writer

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It’s appalling to me that authors can be silenced through censorship of their works. Some books that have been censored in the United States over the years include “The Great Gatsby,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Ulysses,” “1984,” “Catch 22,” “Cat’s Cradle,” and “The Catcher in the Rye.” I hope that you have read at least one of these classics and understand that their censorship detracts from the human experience. A great work of literature is an opportunity to live a story through the lens of an author, for in an author’s mind exists the unexplored. Delving into a world like the one created by George Orwell in “1984” is an exploration you can’t get anywhere other than those pages.

Governments often censor literature under the guise that it is “profane” or “indecent” but in all cases there are clearly ulterior motives. Profound works of writing have the power to challenge and disrupt societal norms. In the 1960s, we saw an example of how this can happen with institutions rejecting what is now considered a classic. Challenged for its portrayal of racism, violence, and crude language, “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been removed from many school curriculums in an attempt to ban Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Argued to contain immoral themes, the story has been decisively censored from the learning of future scholars because it exposes readers to concepts that institutionalized education systems do not want to impart on their students. This is a seemingly tactical decision to limit the rhetoric and scope of ideology available to future students. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a telling story of racial injustice and gender roles, but such themes have been deemed unfavorable to education. Of course, the general perception regarding these issues has become more open-minded, but that doesn’t mean we ought to do away with provocative themes from the discourse. In some cases, books are taken off shelves for an objectively sinister reason. “1984,” written by George Orwell amidst Joseph Stalin’s rise to power, could be interpreted as a story of how a government might take advantage of complacent citizens. Orwell paints a vivid picture of a dystopian future with an all-powerful government hell-bent on stripping humanity of their free speech and their ability to stand against oppressive regimes. As of March 2018, George Orwell’s novels “Animal Farm” and “1984” have been banned in China, and internet searches related to these books have been blocked.

This act of censorship just so happened to coincide with the abolition of term limits for presidents of the Chinese Communist Party. The censorship of dystopian novels by oppressive governments is clearly an attempt to prevent rebellion, all while downplaying the importance of free speech.

In the case of “The Catcher in the Rye,” it is much harder to pin down a specific reason as to why it was censored. Between 1966 and 1975, it was the most frequently banned book in schools. In the case of this novel, it may have genuinely been to limit young people’s exposure to filthy and profane language, the apparent promotion of premarital sex, homosexuality, and perversion. Parents called the book “explicitly pornographic” and “immoral” in angry letters written to schools when the reading was assigned to students.

It’s apparent that this novel was censored due to the fear of corrupting the youth. The book allegedly had such an impact on one man, Mark David, that he cited it as the reason he killed John Lennon. John Hinckley, Jr. was also supposedly obsessed with the book and he attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981. I can understand how, as a parent, you don’t want your kid reading a book that could turn your child into a murderer, but it is clearly not just the book that made these people act on such violent and indecent impulses. It makes sense that troubled young people who happen to have these sick tendencies would relate to the main character of the story, Holden Caulfield. Holden is a deeply troubled protagonist who’s story attracts those in a similar state of mind. This book is necessary for young people to experience because a majority of readers can identify Holden’s flaws. After seeing the experiences he goes through, one may hopefully grow as a person.

Censorship can be seen almost anywhere these days, even in Union’s very own newspaper! *Gasp* For instance, I wrote a fantastic [censored] article last week, and some [censored] removed the mildly explicit language! I don’t give a [censored] about who did it, but on principle, that [censored] is so [censored] frustrating! Everyone at Union is an adult and don’t lie to yourself saying “kids read this stuff,” because children don’t know what a newspaper is anymore with their [censored] iPads and what not! The United States Constitution tells everyone they can say whatever the [censored] they want to, so [censored] off with this bull-[censored]! Like I said before, reading is an experience and opportunity to see something through the mind of an author. It is one heck of a gosh darn shame that the experience might be diminished in the interest of protecting readers from the profane.