CLASSIC BANNED BOOKS
In honor of next week’s Banned Books Week, we’ve put together a list of now-Classics that were once—or are still—contested, censored, or banned. (We considered just linking back to our list of classic literary smut and being done with it, but that seemed all too easy.) So below, check out a few historically hackles-raising Penguin Classics that came to mind around the office. And never forget that reading classics can be rebellious.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck’s legendary depiction of Americans struggling for survival during the Great Depression has been burned, banned, and the topic of numerous censorship trials since its publication in 1939. Though the book’s purpose was to illuminate the plight of migrant families, many authorities felt they’d been depicted in an unfair light. The battles over censoring The Grapes of Wrath have been international, including a Turkish trial in which publishers faced up to six months imprisonment for “spreading propaganda unfavorable to the state.”
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
No stranger to ruffled feathers, John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men has managed to amass quite an interesting list of enemies. Along with plenty of school curriculum battles, Of Mice and Men was banned in Ireland in 1953 and condemned by a South Carolina chapter of the Klu Klux Klan. Censorship battles over the novel continue even today.
On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Among the most controversial works of modern time, Charles Darwin’s revolutionary work in the natural sciences has been banned on numerous occasions. Dramatized in the 1955 play “Inherent the Wind”, Darwin’s theory of evolution was banned from Tennessee schools for 42 years after the infamous Scopes Trial. And the work continues to be an inflammatory topic in many parts of the world, including the United States.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
A title synonymous with investigative journalism, Upton Sinclair turned the meatpacking industry of the early 1900s on its head with his seminal work The Jungle, in which he exposed the mistreatment of immigrant workers and blatant disregard of consumer health. Surprisingly, The Jungle was never suppressed in the United States, but was banned in Yugoslavia and burned by both the Nazis in 1933 and East German communists in 1956.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the psychedelic fantasy depicted in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that many parents have found it a questionable story for children, despite its popularity. However, the book’s oddest opponent surfaced in China, when in 1931 a provincial governor was wildly concerned about the effects of animals being depicted speaking human language, describing it as “disastrous.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was making waves in public school districts throughout the country when it first published in 1962. The story of rebellious Randle Patrick Murray as he butts heads with the powerful and manipulative Nurse Ratched in an Oregon mental hospital displayed a scathing critique of institutionalism and the prominent psychology of the time. Fearing the impact the book might have on their children, parents in Colorado attempted to ban the novel from public schools, claiming it “glorifies criminal activity, [and] has a tendency to corrupt juveniles.” In 1986, the book was banned from curricula in Aberdeen, Washington, simply because of its secular humanistic values.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
As a cautionary tale of science and man’s role in the creation of life, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has for the past two centuries found itself at the center of debates over religion and science, its work with these themes resulting in protest from many various Christian groups. Though never governmentally censored in the United States, South Africa banned the novel in 1955 for obscenity.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
William Golding’s 1954 novel The Lord of the Flies has been in the censorship cross-hairs of American parents for decades. Those attempting to ban the book have done so on the grounds that it is excessively violent, racist, and “implies that man is little more than an animal.” But Golding, a schoolteacher himself, wrote the book in response to an 1858 novel by R. M. Ballantyne, TheCoral Island, in which a group of young boys stranded on a desert island get along quite swimmingly. Though Golding enjoyed the book, his experience with schoolchildren led him to take the morality of the situation in…a different direction.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
When is a word just a word, and when is it something more? Considered the Great American Novel by many, Mark Twain’s use of racially loaded slurs in his novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been the topic of dozens of censorship battles. A disparaging picture of the antebellum South, Twain’s tale of a young man barreling down the Mississippi with an escaped slave has been among the most polarizing works of literature. First published in 1885, the novel has sparked heated debate over the publication and wider cultural effects of racist slurs. Though many cite context and Twain’s aim of revealing Southern racism as justification of the slang’s use, many advocates of censoring the work have called for select slurs to be replaced with simply “The N-Word.”
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Possibly the most unusual banning of a book on our list, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty was prohibited in Apartheid South Africa based on a misunderstanding. Though Anna Sewell’s novel champions compassion for all living things, its title was misinterpreted by the white National Party as a novel about a black woman and hence deemed not fit for the public. Naturally, the officials were far too busy to actually read the literature considered unacceptable.
Classic Fridays | The world is full of classics. Every Friday, we close the week with one of our favorites.
Write World Sentence Prompt #2
"This isn’t a relationship, it’s a train wreck," she spat at him. She ran a hand through her hair. Angry at what had been going on between them.
"Don’t do this," he pleaded. He loved her. He truly did. He had made mistakes but he needed her.
"I can’t. I can’t anymore. I’m through with this. We’re always angry at each. It’s escalating too quickly." She wiped the tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket. The same one he had given her for Christmas.
"We can work this out. You know we can."
"No, no we can’t. We’ve been through this all before. It’s a fucking vicious cycle. It’s poisonous."
They could fix this. They could. He knew they could. When they were happy, they were so happy. They could be strong together. “We can go to counseling this time. I love you, Nat. I love you so much. Don’t waste four years because we haven’t been getting along lately.”
Four years? It had really been four years. Nat could remember when he asked her out. How ecstatic she had been. How nervous he looked back then and how young too. It had been their sophomore year of high school and he was a dork, still was. My dork, she had always said. He’s still my dork. Her memories made the tears swell in her eyes again.
"Nat, please." He walked towards her, arms outstretched, ready to embrace her. "Don’t leave. We’ll be fine." He wrapped his arms around her thinning frame. Her being sick hadn’t helped their relationship at all. Thing after thing had begun to amount and the stress had reached a breaking point.
"I won’t." she admitted through a cry. "I can’t." She shook in his arms, letting him hold her tightly. "I love you."
"Life is merely an illusion," she had said to me once. "To live by life’s rules, to strive only for the dollar or the white-picket fence and family, was to not live at all.” She explained as she took a drag from her cigarette. She parted her red lips, letting the white smoke escape her mouth.
"To truly live was to take a leap," she said removing her leather jacket. "To take a leap and never second guess yourself. To be adventurous without any remorse in your actions, that’s what it is to truly live." I watched her take another drag as she stepped closer to the cliff’s edge.
I called her name softly, “Jack.” I looked at the ocean, wild in it’s movements, a living thing which created and destroyed without a second thought.
"You need to live," she said to me. "You need to escape your chains, Ben. Come with me," she took another drag before flicking the cigarette away. My hands shook from nervousness. It was a big fall down from the cliff down into the water plus the cliff’s side was filled with rocky ridges ready to pierce your flesh. If they didn’t get you, the ocean would push you towards the side.
"Jack!" I yelled as I watched her step onto the edge.
"Come!" she spread her arms out like a figure of Christ and jumped. My heart nearly stopped as a "no!" escaped my lips. I ran to the edge and saw her body fall into the water; the splash overcome by the waves.
I watched her emerge from beneath the surface, laughing as the water continued to rage around her. She’ll be the death of me, I thought. “So be it.” I took off my sweater and with a deep breath, I took the leap.
I watched her in horror. Her fury tainting the air around her, her blade slicing her victims around her. I laid there on the wet ground with the dirt mixing into the wounds on my body. I couldn’t move. I could only watch the massacre that she was unleashing.
The sound of her blade shattering bones and splitting skin apart was one that I could never forgot. The bodies dropped one after the other. But as soon as the slaughtered began, it had finished. She turned around and I could see her blood stained clothes. She looked down at me.
"Why?" I asked softly. "Why couldn’t you have contained yourself!" I cried out. I was furious. Those people, as much as they had done, they were human. Evil wasn’t born, it was created and yet, no one was completely evil. Those men had families, lives outside their secretive work. Now, who was the true monster?
"I had to protect you," she spoke with cold, almost dead tone. "I did what I needed to do."
"You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something not everyone knows how to love."
"I would wonder about her for the rest of my life."
That December morning had started out as the worst of the month. Snow had fallen throughout the night, trapping everyone who could not get their cars defrosted at home. Luckily, I had melted the snow on and around my car with a pound of salt. I expected weather like this. Living in this state, you learned to expect the unexpected.
With the sun out, I headed over to the local coffee shop. It was empty and nearly quiet except for the sound of the machines whirring as they made the drinks. I sat down, grateful for the comfort of the familiar sounds and smells, the feel of the soft couch. It was a second home.
As I waited for my steaming cup of coffee to cool down, I noticed a woman had entered the shop. Her dark hair was speckled with light snow, her nose was red, nipped at by the cold wind. She smiled, relief seeming to come over as she unzipped her thick jacket.
I watched her silently, softly blowing into my coffee cup. She was beautiful though not in the traditional sense. Something about her -call it her presence, her aura-it made her beautiful, intriguing.
I never got up to speak to her. And just as she had come, she had zipped up her jacket once more and made her way out, coffee in hand.
I would wonder about her for the rest of my life.
What happened to her? Was she married and with a family? Was she happy? Successful in her dreams and endeavors?
I often asked myself these questions after that December morning.
"I had no idea I could do that."
She stood, shaking, looking at the men who were going to take her away. She wouldn’t go. “No!” she screamed. Her best friend held her to him. “You can’t take me!”
The men gave her an eerie smile. It chilled her to her bones. “Don’t let them take me. They’ll do things to me. I’ve heard stories. Promise me,” she said to him.
"I promise." He said softly before kissing her cheek.
"You think you can stop us? You’re just one person against two." One of the men said, he lunged towards the pair, grabbing the girl’s shoulders roughly.
"Ow! Let go!" Her friend tried to keep her in his arms. The man peeled her away from him and began to drag her towards the waiting car. She looked back at her best friend, tears swelling in her eyes, clouding her vision.
Help, her look screamed. She knew they’d take him too if they knew. If they knew. Oh God, no. He couldn’t. She’d survive but she didn’t could never live with herself if they took him too.
I’m sorry, he mouthed to her. She could see the energy manifesting itself in the palm of his hands. “Get down!” he yelled to her. The two men turned to look at him as she threw herself down onto the ground.
He shot the balls of energy at the two men, hitting them square in the chest. Like a pillar, they fell, leaving her crouching down, trying to protect herself from his power.
"Are you okay?" he asked her when he reached her.
"Yeah," she sniffed. She looked at her arms and hissed in pain, noting that her left had not avoided the blast from his power.
"I’m sorry," he said softly as he helped her up. "I had no idea I could do that," he confessed. "I had no idea that I could…" he paused looking at the bodies. "Could kill."
"Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You’ll find what you need to find. Just read."
"…the neat sorting-out of books into age-groups, so dear to publishers, has only a very sketchy relation with the habits of any real readers. Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table."
The light of a new day creeps into our room, hitting my face and waking me. Slowly, I open my eyes, adjusting to the sunlight. I smile looking at you sleeping peacefully next to me. The covers all strewn about from last night, the light hits your bare back, allowing me to see the freckles on your shoulders, the birthmarks of your back. I lay in bed not moving, simply staring at you, trying to memorize your flaws and your perfections.
Amidst my memorization, I realize that I fell asleep watching you lay beside me. I can’t help but to smile. I want to trail my fingers down your back, tracing invisible shapes, relishing the memory of last night’s events. But I don’t. You look so peaceful that I can’t bare wake you.
Inching closer to you, I brush your hair from you forehead and leave a gentle kiss on your lips. I slowly move out from our bed, preparing myself for the new day.