Should “Offensive” Literature be Banned?

This question has been debated for hundreds of years. Many people feel, and have felt, that a book should promote proper morals. A book with violence might encourage people to be violent. A book with homosexuality might thwart people from their previous Christian ways (I don’t agree with this, by the way). The list of reasons for banning books is endless.

So many books have been famously banned by different Governments over time. Here I list some of the most shocking ones and where and why they were banned.

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: I know. It’s ridiculous of course, that such a wonderful and iconic book, written by Lewis Carroll could possibly be banned. But it was. It was banned in the province of Hunan, China, in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings. It was believed to be offensive towards human beings… bla bla bla… Basically, some people didn’t understand the concept of fantasy!
  2. Borstal Boy, by Brendan Behan: This is an interesting one, although I’ve never read it. It tells the tale of an Irish man in a juvenile prison. Shockingly, it was banned in Ireland because of its criticism of Irish Republicanism and Catholicism, and of course, its themes of adolescent sexuality. To me, these reasons are questionable.
  3. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown: Oh dear, what can I even say about one? I think everyone knows something about this book. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, and has been adapted into a film. However it was banned in Lebanon because Catholic leaders felt that it was offensive towards Catholicism. Again, this is clearly quite a poor reason.
  4. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler: This one is at least understandable on some level. It’s essentially banned in Germany and Austria to print the work. But I question this too. Although his book contains horrible and extremely racist views, it is also a very important historical source.
  5. Ulysses by James Joyce: What is now regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century was banned in the UK until the 1930’s, and in Australia during the 1930s and 1940s. It was challenged and temporarily banned in the US too. Shocking stuff, I know.
  6. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe: Shockingly, this book was banned in the Southern United States during the Civil War due to its anti-slavery content.

It seems that the banning of books has been quite extensive, and even to this day, many are challenged, and thus removed from some bookshops, on religious and sexual grounds. Harry Potter is a prime example of a book series that is constantly questioned, on the grounds that it supposedly promotes Witchcraft. But is this right? Well, I think that it’s safe to say that no, it is not right. I particularly noticed the extent of banned works in Ireland. Quite a lot, by the looks of things! Sex by Madonna was banned in 1992 here, which I find strange and questionable. I’m glad that in Western Europe we’ve become liberated enough to stop banning books.

10 comments on “Should “Offensive” Literature be Banned?

  1. I think that if you ban a book, it makes people all the more curious to find it and read it. Also, there would have to be consistent rules for the banning.

    Maybe books should have a rating, like the movies do, to give you some idea of what you would find inside. I recently read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. By some standards, that book would be banned but it is still a compelling story with great characters. But I wouldn’t allow a young teen to read it because it’s quite graphic in places.

    • You have a very good point, and I was actually going to mention it in my blog if I had more space. It’s true that a lot of the time something will be banned and it makes it famous. I’ve never read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but I’ve seen the film, and I see where you’re coming from alright. Nor would I let a young teen read it!

  2. Wow Patrick a very interesting discussion (this is my second time typing this as the original decided to spontaneously highlight and thus disappear when I pressed the space bar)

    I can understand the reasoning behind some of the books you have mentioned. ‘Mein Kampf’ was banned because it would have been disrespectful and insensitive otherwise. Regarding ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, I think it’s utterly ridiculous but I can understand the reasoning. Firstly, it was banned in 1931, and during this period as far as I know witchcraft was against the law in many countries (I actually think it’s still against the law in Ireland, or was recently changed, I’m not sure) Witchcraft was along the same lines as satanism and was considered one of the utmost black magics. Therefore fantasy would have been associated with it & was frowned upon also.

    Oh lord, what can I say about ‘The Da Vinci Code’ – Just another fine example of the Church ruling proceedings. I would expand but I feel it’s not necessary! (:P)

    It’s madness how they were all banned. But that’s just civilization and culture – there will always be some ‘big man’ telling us what’s right and wrong, what’s acceptable and what isn’t, etc. It’s just our jobs to say HELL NO! (:L)

    @EagleEyedEditor You made a very interesting point! Books should have ratings, I can’t believe I’ve never realised they don’t before. It makes no sense. And yeah, you’re right about a book getting a lot of attention if it’s banned, it causes curiosity. A lot of ‘The Da Vinci’s Code’ is down to the controversy it caused I think anyway.

    Oh, and I hate to be the freak who corrects grammatical errors, but there is one typo haha and I think a missing word. I wouldn’t normally point this out but I know my brother is a grammar nazi, so check it out 😛
    4) change ‘adolf’ spelling 🙂 2) “although i’ve never read __IT” (I’m not sure if you’re meant to put that in or not but i think you are haha 😀

    Well done love 🙂 xx

    • @EagleEyedEditor I meant in the last sentence in that paragraph.. A lot of The Da Vinci’s Code’s success is down to the controversy it caused I think anyway!
      Have a good day!

      • Thanks Aisling for your comments! I agree with you mostly. But I don’t think Mein Kampf should be banned personally from a historical perspective. But yes, thanks for pointing out the typo! It’s fixed now 🙂

  3. I love when people ban Judy Blume, and Sherman Alexie because they are such profound Young Adult writers that don’t JUST write relationship stories. Judy Blume, I think, is the most banned author in America actually. How insane is that.

    I’m still upset that publishers are changing the words in Mark Twain’s books. I think the word choice he uses, although we obviously don’t agree with it now, is important for students to see that it was a sign of the times and puts the book into a historical perspective.

    • You make many good points, Cassie! And thanks for reading. It really is bizarre how people can influence whether or not books are sold. And that’s totally wrong about Mark Twain’s books. A writer’s choice of words is really important – it’s all about their style and their characteristics as a writer. Changing those words is taking away what makes them who they are.

      • I couldn’t agree more. I work at an inner-city teen center and the first books I have them read are the banned books because I think they connect more to books that have been outed. Sherman Alexie is one of our favorites at the teen center, that’s why he always comes up specifically for me in these conversations.

  4. I just did a blog post about a banned book because of the author. Some critics feel that questioning the author’s character is fair game in analyzing art or literature. I would argue the work should stand on its own merits.

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