Contentious – definition: 1. tending to cause argument or strife; quarrelsome; 2. causing, involving, or characterized by argument or controversy
Throughout literary history there have been contentious novels. Some, in our modern day thinking, are not contentious at all but we have to bear in mind the culture and beliefs that were present at the time the books were released.
Huckleberry Finn was published in 1884, by Mark Twain. The reason it was banned? On social grounds. Although the references and treatment of African Americans in the novel reflect the time about which it was written, some critics thought such language inappropriate for study and reading in schools and libraries. The Concord Public Library first banned the book in 1885, calling it “trash suitable only for the slums.”
Today it is thought to be a classic.
2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
This book is the diary of a young girl, Anne Frank, as she experienced the Nazi occupation. It is an important work from World War II.
In the book Anne describes how she and her family hide from the occupying forces and are eventually discovered and sent to a concentration camp. The reason it was banned? Certain passages were considered “sexually offensive,” and also that the tragic nature of the book, was felt to be a “real downer.” An unthinkable view to today’s beliefs.
I remember reading this book in school and absolutely loved it even though I felt so sorry for Anne, who was near my own age when she wrote it and I read it.
A collection of tales, which has been banned by Arab faction governments as vice and sin. Various editions of The Arabian Nights were also banned by the US Government under the Comstock Law of 1873. The law makes it illegal to send any “obscene” materials through the mail,
First issued in 1899, Kate Chopin’s novel, The Awakening tells the famous tale of Edna Pontellier. She left her family, committed adultery, and began a journey to rediscover her true self as an artist. Such actions were not easy, nor socially acceptable, especially in the time the book was published. Fierce criticism of the book as being immoral and scandalous meant Kate Chopin never wrote another novel. Today The Awakening is considered an important work in feminist literature.
This is the only novel by Sylvia Plath. It is famous for its shocking insight into her mind and art, and also because it is a coming-of-age story. The narrative is told in the first person by Esther Greenwood, who struggles with her mental illness. The reason for banning it – the suicide attempts detailed in the book made it a target for book censors.
The book has been repeatedly banned and challenged for what is seen as its controversial content of sexual material and it supposedly advocating an “objectionable” philosophy of life. Other reasons stated for banning the novel were that the book was poor-quality literature which stressed suicide, illicit sex, violence and hopelessness.
Do you have a favorite ‘banned’ book?
Do you agree any of the above novels should be banned?