When you think of classic literature, controversial probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind. It’s hard to imagine writers like Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, or F. Scott Fitzgerald stirring up a whole lot of controversy with their works. As it turns out, there’s quite a few classics that have run the gauntlet of being banned, and here’s 5 in particular that might surprise you.
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It’s hard to imagine this beloved American classic ever being banned reading, but To Kill A Mockingbird has been considered controversial through the decades due to its language and the difficult topic of racism broached within its pages. Use of the ‘N’ word in the book is what originally got it banned, although in the 1980s it was challenged by an Indiana school district for its representation of institutionalized racism.
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Orwell’s famous allegorical novel has been stirring up trouble practically since the day it was published. In fact, its original publication was delayed in the UK in the 1940s due to the anti-Stalinist themes present (if you remember, Stalin joined forces with the Allies following Hitler’s invasion of the USSR), and was confiscated by Allied troops when they marched into Germany. But Animal Farm has been banned as late as 2012 in the UAE due to its un-Islamic values.
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The Bell Jar tells the story of a woman struggling with mental illness and many consider it to be a keen look into the machinations of author Sylvia Plath’s mind. It’s the suicide attempts carried out by the book’s main character that have made The Bell Jar a frequenter of the most-banned books list. Plath’s own eventual suicide has given the book more weight and added to the controversy often swirling around it.
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Fitzgerald’s famous novel seems to be a part of every high-schooler’s reading requirements these days, but there was a was a time when this Jazz Age tale was quite a bit less popular. The Great Gatsby is one of the most banned books of all time due to its supposed questionable language and sexual content. But maybe now that it’s been turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, its days of being banned are long gone!
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Vonnegut’s novels tend not to be for everyone, but Slaughterhouse-Five’s brush with the book blacklist can come across as a bit over the top. Vonnegut’s satirical WWII novel was banned in some schools in the 70s for being ‘un-Christian’ and, in a move very reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (which, ironically, is also one of the most frequently banned books), some schools even ended up burning copies of Slaughter-House Five!
Which of these banned books have you read?