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Banned Books Shaping History

Updated on May 26, 2018
saramc1980 profile image

Sara has been a Freelance Writer and Editor since 2007, currently in Cincinnati, OH. With a lifelong dream of writing this is it for her!

Some of Our Most Influential and Historically Classic Novels were Initially Banned

I think of literary works that have shaped history from a dark perspective, especially here in America. One of my favorites is Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller; a book that was written directly from his naughty experiences in Paris while also banned from being published or even shipped into the U.S. upon initial completion.

In the past there have been so many books that began their place in history as controversial or even banned from the American schools or shelves completely. I know that I think of Tropic of Cancer because this is one of my favorite books in general, considering the viewpoint that Henry Miller took from his own experiences overseas. Learning and taking in the culture of Europe during the WWII era, there would be much for the American public to see from the eyes of their neighbors who were over there as well. But, considering the nature of the streets of Paris American publishers refused this book to be released openly here in the homeland.

Those Most Famous Authors and Their Books May Never have Been Published!

I know that hundreds of books over the past couple of centuries have been banned from the reader’s eye by publishers, schools, churches and many more groups, based on the type of explicit content they supposedly had. While there were a number of reasons that the themes of these books were considered to be uncomfortable, there was also the avoidance of certain truths about the culture of our entire world and the steps being taken in forward motion. While at the time of their publication, many of these books, poetry and plays by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Mark Twain and many, many more were shot to the wind or even burned in churchyards because of their supposedly cursed nature. There was no consideration of the fact that these authors and their books were intended to bring to life the tales of some of the greatest, most-upstanding events taking place across the world at the very time they were written. Now that we have them as historical references to supplement dry and emotionless history textbooks.

What is quite interesting is that there are so many other books that are considered classic and taught so frequently in all levels of education today, that were once banned completely. Some of these include Huckleberry Finn, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, The Awakening, The Bell Jar, The Color Purple, Candide, The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, The Grapes of Wrath, Gulliver’s Travels, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, James and the Giant Peach, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Lord of the Flies, Madame Bovary, Moll Flanders, Of Mice and Men, The Scarlet Letter, Song of Solomon, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ulysses, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Slaughterhouse Five, A Clockwork Orange, Catch-22, The Crucible, All Quiet on the Western Front, Animal Farm, Invisible Man, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Native Son, Gone with the Wind, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Their Eyes were Watching God, The Lord of the Rings, In Cold Blood, Sophie’s Choice, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Leaves of Grass, Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, A Streetcar Named Desire and many, many more. Looking at some of these titles you may notice that some of them are also quite famous plays and movies that have eventually lasted throughout American history. What on earth would have encouraged different groups to originally ban their content from our shelves completely?

Original Reasons the American Public Threw These Titles to the Wind

There are many of these that we would consider romantic or historically informative, while at their initial publication they were banned for some simple issues like sex, violence or racism. Many of these authors who were eventually famous for a number of novels had to face the initial challenge of a chastising publisher who did not want the American people to see the truth of certain events or occasions. Whether it was the true violence of a war, or the cultural defective racism of slavery and other mistreatment of people right here in our own nation, there was much to hide from the eyes of readers who were assumed to only want entertainment rather than an upstanding and challenging amount of content on what was happening in the world at their own time.

What is incredible is that now, looking at many of these books from a historical perspective, it is great to see that some people took the time to put down on paper some of the things that were really happening around them. Would we have seen some of the more emotional views of those who were trying to live their lives but also facing the challenges of historical difficulties like war and political battle? I only hope that I am an author of the 21st century who is able to bring some of our latest issues to light from the eyes of a woman in question of our culture. Will I be able to speak as openly and honestly in a creative manner as our amazing classic authors?

Conclusion: I Want to be able to Make the Incredible Effect Like these 'Banned' Authors

I know that I love these books and authors most often, considering the depth and endearing emotional presentation they present in regard to historical events. While there are so many textbooks and other dry presentations of history that provide a timeline of events, there is not always the feeling from the core or the soul of different individuals as they saw the world evolving in front of their eyes. There are different sides to the stories of these events, and over time it definitely helps to learn about the effect that those intense scenes had on all sides of our society and culture. I know that I would love the honor of being an author banned from her own time, only to be respected as a presenter of quality historical information.


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    • saramc1980 profile imageAUTHOR

      Sara McIntosh 

      3 years ago from Cincinnati

      Thanks! I know I love so many of these books, they are still on my shelves after I had to buy them for college. I wonder what may be banned right now? Hmmm...

    • Liztalton profile image


      3 years ago from Washington

      It's crazy that so many of these amazing books were once banned. I have read much of the book you listed and I have to say that The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath remains one of my all time favorites. Great hub!


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