Banned Books




"I never heard of anyone who was really literate or who ever really loved books who wanted to suppress any of them. Censors only read a book with great difficulty, moving their lips as they puzzle out each syllable, when someone tells them that the book is unfit to read."
Robertson Davies

Throughout all of history, human beings have been continuously seeking new mediums of communication, specifically for the purpose of exchanging ideas and information. This has been done in a series of ways, including spoken language, hand gestures, and, most importantly, the written word.
The written word has an advantage over all other forms of communication, for it allows many people access to information otherwise unavailable; a story heard can be easily misconstrued and passed incorrectly, while a physical representation remains solid, and may be reproduced in large numbers, making it available to many people at the same time. With this benefit, ideas, facts, and opinions may be spread to diverse groups of people, spawning fresh ideas and advances in most every field of human development. When the first moveable type was invented by the Greeks in 1700B.C., making it possible to transfer hieroglyphics onto clay disks, an almost immediate explosion of philosophy and education began to develop as a direct result (Banned Books screen 1). Years later, the Chinese developed the very first books -- blocks of bamboo bound with silk -- doing for communication what nuclear energy did for fire. From there, the book went through a slow evolution, eventually reaching the form that we are familiar with today.
Such a vast sharing of knowledge doesn\'t come without consequences, however. When opinions are made readily available to a large group of people, beliefs clash, provoking anger and insecurity. For example, in Athens, Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenian Assembly for his writings which glorified male homosexuality, among other things(DeCamp 4). When a piece of literature doesn\'t conform to older ideals or questions a widely practiced religion, people tend to take dramatic action, even going as far as to ban the work or editing it, only allowing filtered bits to reach the intended public. This practice, known as censorship, forces thousands of eager readers to yield to the ideals and standards of others. Although this is disgustingly un-American, this is commonly practiced in schools, libraries, and book stores, and is most often spurred on by an angry parent, demanding their child not be corrupted by such vulgar, radical ideas (Heins 8). In a classroom setting, complaints such as the above are commonplace, and a surprising number of these complaints are carried through to the fullest extent, that being the barring of a certain title from the classroom. This is partly done on fear that comes from teachers and school boards who dread either a lawsuit or a grim reputation.
"What threatens us today is fear. Not the atom bomb, nor even fear of it, because if the bomb fell...tonight, all it would do would be to kill us, which is nothing, since in doing that, it will have robbed itself of it\'s only power over us; which is fear of it, the being afraid of it. Our danger is not that. Our danger is the forces in the world today which are trying to use man\'s fear to rob him of his individuality, his soul, trying to reduce him to an unthinking mass of fear..." (Faulkner, quoted in Noble 43).
This seems to be a growing, dangerous trend; a single group of parents becoming censors for an entire group of children, even those who do not share the adult\'s point of view.
"It seems that overnight we have all of these self-appointed advocates of clean literature," says Gene Lanier, Chairman of Library Science at East Carolina University. "A book is easier to burn than to explain" (quoted in Noble 119). This statement holds a startling amount of truth, for when a book is banned, it is usually carried out by a small group of fist-shakers who all subscribe to a similar set of ideals, say, Christianity. Something offensive to perhaps a few individuals of a certain faith, but not to the many others who want to read the book is still enough to get