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Analysis of the Issue in Censoring Books

Does Banning Books Really Protect The Children?

All across the world, throughout time, books have been challenged, banned, and outright censored due to “suggestive content” found in such literature. Such actions are taken by governments to avoid their citizens discovering anti-nationalistic propaganda in an effort to avoid revolts; banning literature is also utilized to protect children from language that may be considered too mature for their age group. Whatever the case, the censoring of any medium of literature can be considered a blessing, or a curse.

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In the past, history has proven that the censoring of literature has a negative impact, taking away the rights of citizens to observe media outside of their country; some countries go so far as to burn the things they do not want their people to see, in fear of them having an opinion that challenges the countries’ ideals. Recently, public institutions (particularly libraries) have been keen on banning or challenging books based upon one or few persons’ opinions, causing a major conflict of interest: comply with members of the publics’ opinion and take the book off the shelf, or think of the majority and allow the book to remain? Considering these situations, one must think, what book could possibly render such removal from the public? There are numerous classics taken out of libraries, both public and school, depriving students of finding important lessons in classic pieces of writing. The banning of literature in the United States is a controversial epidemic sweeping the nation, limiting specific demographics of citizens by forcing them to either buy banned books, or not experience them at all due to monetary constraints; therefore, the American government should take necessary action to keep books on the shelves, regardless of content.

Censoring literature is by no means a new concept; Queen Elizabeth I flagged works written by Shakespeare, the Chinese government sanctioned the deliberate burning of libraries in 221 BC, and even Socrates was sentenced to death by poison for his “corruption of the youth.” These are only a few major examples found in an exceedingly long timeline of writings and teachings being cut short for unorthodox content. One incredibly prominent example is one that many tend to overlook, or completely disregard: the European Church.

The Catholic Church held power over Europe for many years (roughly 1,500 years), but began to lose their grip on society with the invention of the printing press. Even before this spark, there were laws previously to keep citizens from speaking their minds (making it illegal to have an opinion.) However, with this new tool, ideas could be spread across the globe much more quickly than before; this in turn allowed for anti-Catholic messages to be spread without being snuffed out immediately. Martin Luther’s ideas about the church and its flaws were distributed to the public through pamphlets, and this resulted in his excommunication from the Church. This will instigate the beginning of the end for literature, but it will not last for long.

In Europe, the Catholic Church created censorship through different levels over time: “Censorship emerged in three main stages: Initially, the supervision of printing was organized solely by the church. This supervision was subsequently increasingly adopted by secular institutions also. Finally, censorship by secular authorities became the dominant kind. (Wilke, 2)” In opposition to modern censoring, this medieval censoring required that a secular official overlooked the piece of writing before being sent to the printing press. With these laws, however, came criminals; people sneaking books and pamphlets under the radar in order to spread ideas throughout the nation. The Church exemplifies only one of many examples of a body of government controlling its citizens through its media and literature, not allowing the formation of personal opinions.

Some major players in the literature of not only the united states, but the world have all been put onto a list of “banned books”. A few books are considered a historical piece but that doesn’t matter to the people reviewing books.  According to the Office for Intellectual Freedom, at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. have been the target of ban attempts (ALA, 3). Of this books one is strikingly noted for its writing and detail, the book in question is J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in The Rye”. The book follows a young man named Holden Caulfield, while he tries to find his place in the world. The content and language in the book is viewed as “obscene” and “disgusting”. But the book is an important view and the ideas need to be shared. The book has never had a day where it wasn’t under fire in schools due to a parent or a school board member being offended by the content of this book. The situations that people mostly have problems with include, Premarital sex, Profanity, the use of tobacco products, the use of alcohol, the depiction of prostitution, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled. All of these topics lead the book to be constantly removed and reinstated within the american education system.

The american education system is notorious for being the reason literature and books alike are pulled off of school libraries shelves. This censorship in the schools is really limiting the students way of thinking and their point of views of the world.

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Material that becomes a question or a complaint by a parent doesn’t really get a fighting chance before it gets removed. All it really takes anymore is a strongly worded email from a parent or school board member. The students are suffering from this ease to remove a book. The content of books may be “obscene” but the topics in the books need to be discussed and talk about. If you remove the books the students will lack all the thoughts and questions that would be brought up by the book. A book such as Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” was challenged at the Warren, IN Township schools (1981) because  the book does “psychological damage to the positive integration process” and “represents  institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.” After unsuccessfully trying to ban Lee’s novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council (Ala, 3). This also brings up a point that is brought up in arguements.

A reason for books being barred by parents and churches alike are demoralizing words and phrases. The use of racial slurs has been a solid foothold for parents to try and have the books removed and set aside. Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been challenged and removed time and time again for the usage of such words as “nigger” and “whore-lady”. This words have been deemed inappropriate for students to read and associate the book with. Although the words are time period fitting people would rather have the book banned than the students and teachers going over the history and usage of said words in the time period that the book was written and based in. Some books are treated the same way by the churches by using phrases that go against the beliefs of a god.

Regardless of who reads these books that have been challenged and banned, these books will always have a place in the world and the education systems of the world. The censorship brought upon these books not only have brought up questions against freedom of press, but also freedom of thought.

Works Cited

  • Anderson, Jaclyn Lewis. “The Classification of Censorship: An Analysis of Challenged Books by Classification and Subject Heading.” The Journal of the New Members Round Table 5.1 (2014): 1-18. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.
  • Wilke, Jurgen. “Censorship and Freedom of the Press.” European History Online. Leibniz Institute of European History, 08 May 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.
  • ALA, Admin. “Banned & Challenged Classics.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, 17 Oct. 2017,

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