It’s incredible how many books we now consider to be classics were, at one point in time, banned from the public. The American Library Association (ALA) launched Banned Books Week in 1982 to celebrate the freedom to read and bring national attention to the harms of censorship. Book-banning is most dangerous when it erases different points of view and promotes discrimination. Thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, and the booklover community who advocate for our freedom to read, the majority of banned and challenged books have remained available to the public.
Let’s look at some of literature’s most challenged texts and celebrate the fact that we can now read them for free on eNotes!
1.) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Why was it banned? Many considered the language “trashy” and the content “suitable only for the slums” a month after its publication. Nowadays, there is controversy surrounding its frequent use of the N-word.
2.) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Why was it banned? For a whimsical portrayal of cross-dressing and an accidental same-sex romance.
3.) The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Why was it banned? Jack London’s socialist views were considered “too radical.”
4.) Candide by Voltaire
Why was it banned? Voltaire’s satire contains religious blasphemy and political hostility.
5.) The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Why was it banned? It contains sexual content many considered inappropriate at the time of publication.
6.) A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
Why was it banned? Ibsen’s Nora Helmer challenges the Victorian ideal of a woman’s role in marriage, in the home, and in society.
7.) The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Why was it banned? Kafka’s book was banned under Soviet and Nazi regimes for being “decadent” and “despairing.”
8.) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Why was it banned? Wharton’s portrayal of infidelity between a married man and another woman was considered too controversial at the time.
9.) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Why was it banned? Shelley’s subject matter was “objectionable and obscene” because it shows a man playing God by creating life.
10.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Why was it banned? Swift makes politically insensitive references to the European elite. It has also been banned for controversial topics such as displays of madness and public urination.
11.) Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Why was it banned? Conrad’s Marlow portrays Africa and Africans in ignorant, racist ways.
12.) The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Why was it banned? The text includes some vulgar language and sexual references.
13.) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Why was it banned? Hawthorne’s writing was seen as sympathetic to adultery.
14.) The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
Why was it banned? The portrayal of Shylock and the anti-Semitism present in the text are particularly insensitive.
15.) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Why was it banned? In apartheid South Africa, it was banned because the word “black” appeared next to the word “beauty.”.
Which book is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!
It’s amazing what people will ban, isn’t it?
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