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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Books | [ssba]


Censorship is one of the most controversial issues of the literary world. An ongoing conflict rages between writers and governments, religious organisations, and various media watchdogs who attempt to ban books for their “immoral content”.

Books have been challenged almost since their invention. It is known that Plato suggested expurgating Homer’s Odyssey for ‘immature’ readers as early as 387 BC, while the earliest known formal list of banned books, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was released in 1559 AD by the Catholic Church. It was a result of both various governments and the Church trying to restrict printers to circulating governmental pamphlets and Bibles, as opposed to anything which would encourage revolutionary thinking.

Why does society feel the need to censor any books that provoke individual thought? While it is easy to dismiss the repression of creativity as being a thing of the past, books are still being challenged and banned from libraries today. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was—somewhat ironically, given its subject matter—the most commonly banned book in the 20th century. Many of the usual complaints were used against it: it was perceived to contain sexual themes and anti-Semitism, and to be overly political.

Books are often challenged for laughably misguided reasons. Laura Mallory, a resident of Louisana, Georgia, managed to find “evil themes” within the Harry Potter series and spent the next two years of her life from 2005 until 2007 trying to get the books banned, apparently convinced that Rowling’s novels encourage youngsters to practice witchcraft, murder and blood sacrifices. Naturally, Mallory believed it would be hypocritical to actually read all the Harry Potter novels herself.

Likewise, Nineteen Eighty-Four has been challenged throughout its long publication history for allegedly containing both pro-communist and anti-Soviet themes, which would seem an improbable combination even without the knowledge that Orwell was a staunch anti-Stalinist and member of the Independent Labour Party.

Why does society do this to itself? Throughout history people have constantly regressed into censorship, treating any new way of thinking, anything that disrupts the status quo as being inherently bad for society. The truth is that books are most often censored for the simple reason that they encourage readers to think for themselves, and we live in a society which, for whatever reason, believes this to be a shortcoming in its populace.


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