Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week: Of Mice and Men

Oh to list the many places this book has been banned would fill this page with pointless dribble of unworthy names. Of Mice and Men, a classic and staple in many summer reading lists or classroom assignments, has been challenged or banned in numerous places in the United States and Ireland. It is actually number 12 on ALA's Most Challenged Classics book list. The one challenge I read which made me laugh the loudest is that the KKK apparently challenged the book! The main reason the book has been challenged or banned from schools are for the following reasons:

  • profanity and using God's name in vain
  • it was 'filthy'
  • anti-business attitude
  • authors questionable patriotism
  • racial slurs
  • it's violent ending
  • morbid and depressing themes
  • derogatory towards African Americans, women, and developmentally disabled
Apparently we're only supposed to read fluffy happy books in this world. Apparently, nothing bad happens and if it does, we should shun it. This is literature, this is fiction, this is the freedom of speech and freedom of the press. If you have a dislike for anything in that list, that is your choice and your right. But to try and take away an authors right because it does not agree with your own? That's ludicrous. 

I do not believe in using racial slurs, I feel it is wrong, so you won't see me running around chanting those words. Do I think they should be removed from the book though? No. The setting of this book takes place years ago when racial slurs were part of everyones vocabulary. There was a clear line separating whites from African Americans. It's a sad fact, but it's the truth, it is America's past. With the story line, location, and events that play out it would take away from it's sense of reality if it were not to include these skewed perspective of people.

I think this book tells more of the relationship between a small, quick, and tough man and the love he had for this lumbering giant who had some form of a mental disability. Proof that people who have mental disabilities are human and can be loved to, proof that they can be misunderstood. Maybe it wasn't such a good example due to what the character accidentally does in the end of the book. Maybe. But it's near impossible not to fall in love with the relationship these two have.

And let's look at it this way: Here are two characters who are at completely different mental and physical ends from each other. They go from place to place, coming across racism, adversity, and problems along the way. Their lives are not exactly perfect but they work hard, all for their dream: to own their own piece of land that they can run themselves and they'd never have to work for someone again. These men might be completely different from one another, but they still have an American dream.

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