Opinion: An attempt to ban our language

Mike Richards

There are a few things I’d wish to cover about Banned Books Week, but with the fear that someone may find an expletive out of context, or a questionably written line that could be perceived as overtly sexual or offensive, I suppose I’ll keep from the tirade.

Now, let’s take it from the top.

This week is Banned Books Week, which is the week you find out exists from your eccentric literature professor, from various blog posts condoning and ridiculing anyone who dares to declare that Harry Potter’s Queen Rowling ever be held back, or you just knew by yourself and have a strong stance against this set of rules. To the latter bunch, I tip my hat to you.

From Hemingway and Fitzgerald to Morrison and Vonnegut, a fair group of authors to whose books and other writings you hold dear, are found on lists declaring their books “banned,” and basically unsuitable to teach and show their kids. These generally are deemed such due to certain themes, events, foul language, sexuality and anything else your frail, close-minded counterpart may deem inappropriate.

This implies that when someone reads “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” they are going to run off yelling racial derogatory words because Mark Twain wrote it. It may also imply that when someone reads “Lolita” that they will be all too inclined to wait until their later years and become infatuated with younger women, just because Nabokov wrote about it. Or you could read a Lost Generation-era novel and party, drink and not give a damn what your peers think because you want to make mommy and daddy upset, too.

There is a sense of coddling that comes along with these banned books. One should examine the book with the intent it was written; consider the time period, the position the author is writing from and also how they use real language to portray life. I never thought that if I read Harry Potter, I’d find myself as the next boy wizard playing with “black magic,” as they wish to call it (but I also didn’t read all of HP as a kid, so here’s my apology to you fanatics). I never thought to go running around yelling the F-word at everyone because Holden Caulfield talked about it over a few pages, ironically telling about how he wishes to not see it everywhere. I didn’t think that if I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” that it’d be OK to adhere to racial stereotypes and drop a derogatory word here and there (but I do tend to dress like Atticus Finch about 90 percent of the time).

And that’s the point. It’s all about context, and that’s why these authors wrote these novels-to show us the world through these contexts-because without a voice to tell us the realities of the world, you may find yourself trapped in mommy’s basement into your thirties because you discovered the world is a terrifying place, and you had no prior warnings to teach and guide you.

I urge you to read a “Banned Book” this week and celebrate our beautiful, everyday language.

Mike Richards is a senior English major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].