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100 Banned Books: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

100 Banned Books: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

What’s It About?
The novel’s protagonist is Alex, a 15 year old living in a near-future dystopian England. He is very intelligent, and loves classical music, almost as much as he loves random ultraviolence.
He and his friends (droogs) spend their days causing as much violence as possible. However, all of Alex’s friends are older than him, and challenge him to try a “man-sized” job: robbing the house of an old cat lady. Angry, Alex lashes out at his friends, and leads them to the old woman’s house to go through with the job. After attacking the old woman and acidently killing her, Alex’s friends betray him and he gets caught by the police.
Once in prison, Alex is recruited into something called The Ludovico experiment, in which he is forced to watch graphically violent movies after getting an injection that makes him ill. This is a type of aversion therapy causes Alex to become extremely nausea whenever witnessing violence, and has the unintended consequence of also him feeling the same kind of nausea whenever he hears classical music. The experience leaves him completely harmless to the rest of the world, but also leaves him completely unable to defend himself from anyone. They then toss him onto the unforgiving streets, where people from his old life remember who he was and are more than happy to take advantage of the new situation.
Why Was It Banned?
In Part 1, the main character of A Clockwork Orange rapes a woman while forcing her husband to watch, and then inadvertally kills her, may have raped two 10 year old girls, sliced up his friends, and attacked an old lady and tried to rob her. This book puts some slasher movies to shame. It doesn’t help that there is a whole lot of cursing in the book, and many of the violent scenes are very graphic. Because of that, it’s been banned from high schools, and apparently a book store owner was arrested for selling the bookA Clockwork Orange.
However, the part of the book that was censored the most was the last chapter. SPOILER ALERT: in the last chapter Alex decides that he is too old for mayhem, implying that his sociopathic tendancies were a product of youth. Some publishers took the last chapter out and ended the book when Alex’s treatment was reversed and he ended up exactly the same as he was when the book started. It was a rare case of altering a book to make it sadder. Burgess hated this change, and always fought against it.
My Thoughts?
This book is really hard to read.
Not because the violence though. The book is written in Alex’s point of view, and he thinks and speaks in a type of slang called Nadsat, which is apparently derived from Russian words. Burgess apparently said once that the reason he wrote in this way is to provide a barrier between him and the terrible things the protagonist is doing. However, opening the book for the first time and seeing what could be considered gibberish can be really daunting for some people. Personally, I really didn’t get used to the language until halfway into Part 2.
But once I could understand what was happening, it got really interesting. Part 1 was kind of frustrating to read because of all the unreadable slang, but Parts 2 and 3 were the best parts of the book anyway. Reading about all the awful things Alex was doing got really old after a while, and the experiment and how it was done and the effects it had was probably the most interesting part of the book anyway.

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100 Banned Books Series: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest   100 Banned Books Series: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey


What is it about?

A classic from the 1960s, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey is a novel set in a mental institution run by the infamously strict Nurse Ratched and her loyal staff, as they hold control over the patients there, all of which suffer from some sort of mental illness. The book focuses on two patients in particular: Chief Bromden, the narrator of the story, who is huge, but very timid, Native American man who has convinced the staff that he is deaf, and therefore not worth noticing.  The other is the hero of the story: Randle “Red” McMurphey, a man committed for statutory rape, and dedicates his time at the asylum to helping the other patients against the tyrannical Nurse Ratched.

The novel mostly tells of the war between McMurphey and Nurse Ratched, and the consequences that come from it. At first, it simply  comes from McMurphey’s reluctance to adhere to Nurse Ratched’s rules, though eventually, he gets several of the other patients on his side. Throughout the novel, McMurphey learns more about the power system in play, and what exactly can drive a man crazy.


Why is it controversial?

The main reason for this book’s controversy comes from the fact that it’s use of course language and unsavory themes that many parents would rather not have their teenage children reading about.  Also, there is much talk of sex, since a major theme of the book is how sexual repression can damage a person, using Billy Bibbit (whose overbearing mother kept from reaching sexual and emotional maturity) as the main example. There is also some crude language, including derogatory terms for people of color.


My thoughts?

The thing I find most interesting about this book is that there doesn’t seem to be a true good guy in it. Though, McMurphey does do things that helps the other patients, it’s implied that he’s only really doing it to help himself, and that he is a narcissist.  We never really find out whether or not this is true.

Also, though I wouldn’t call Chief Bromden an unreliable narrator in the traditional sense, one should note that, because of his mental illness, he does not see the world the way regular people do, and because of that, it is up to the reader to interpret what is really going on.

While I do think that this is a very good and important work, I feel the need to point out that this book is at times very misogynistic. The main theme of the story is what makes a man go insane, and apparently a woman being in power is one of them.

Granted, Nurse Ratched is a terrible human being, but still, there are many instances where male characters treat female characters as sex objects and attempt to use sex as a way to overpower them. Hell, the reason Red is in the asylum at all is on a statutory rape charge.

That being said, it is an important read.  Like many of the other books in this series, there’s a reason this book is considered a classic. It’s a great read, has compelling characters, and really helps with getting into the mind of the mentally ill.

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100 Banned Books Series: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbird   100 Banned Books Series: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


What is it about?

To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of Scout Finch, an eight-year old white girl who lives with her older brother Jem and their father Atticus, an esteemed lawyer in the town.  She and Jem, along with her other friend Dill, become very fascinated with their reclusive neighbor, Boo Radley.  The third of the book is about Scout as she grows up and learns more about life and the small town she lives in, as she, Jem, and Dill try to lure Boo Radley out of his home.

About a third way through the book, Scout learns that Atticus has been assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a respectable black man, against a rape accusation from Bob Ewell, an extremely poor man of ill repute who claims that Tom raped his oldest daughter Mayella, despite evidence to the contrary.

What makes this book so unique and well-regarded is that the heavy themes of racism, rape, and classicism are told through the eyes of a young child.  It’s also interesting to see Scout interact with the adults in her town: my favorite moment is when Scout is forced to go to a ladies social hosted by her Aunt Alexandria, and one of her neighbors, Miss Maudie, quickly tells off one of the other ladies for claiming that black people couldn’t be educated.  Also, a major theme of the book is the class system of the town, in which everyone looks down at the group of people a step lower than they are, with the black community at the bottom.

Why is it controversial?

While the frank writing style and young protagonist is what makes this point so special and well-renowned, it is also what has caused it to go under controversy.  Many parents really did not like the idea of an 8-year-old being the protagonist of a book with themes such as rape, implied incest, and full-out racism, and they especially didn’t like their high school children reading it.  Also, there is some harsh language in the book, including the use of the “N” word, which was deemed inappropriate for high school students.  Depending on who ask, this is either one of the best books American literature has to offer, or one of the most depraved.

My thoughts?

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time, and in my opinion, it is one of the best books American Literature has to offer.  This is a book EVERYONE needs to read. It’s beautiful, gripping, and all around amazing.


There is an acclaimed movie adaptation of the book that is now considered a classic, mostly because they found a really good actor to play Atticus.  While it’s no substitute for the movie, it is still worth watching.


Rating: 9 out of 10.

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100 Banned Books Series: The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

    100 Banned Books Series: The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

 Diary of Anne Frank

The Holocaust left a deep scar on the world’s recorded history. The enormity of what happened is overwhelming when teachers tell you in history class. The Diary of Anne Frank helps middle school students to understand how exactly the holocaust happened. This book details how different people were forced into concentration camps, as well as demonstrates how people looked out for one another in a time of great danger and turmoil.


The Diary of Anne Frank is a diary of a young girl who hid in an attic for two years during the holocaust. The book starts with Anne as a normal Jewish girl who has friends, goes to school, and has boy troubles. The main point comes when the Franks, Anne and her family, were forced to go into hiding. Anne remains in hiding for two years. The Diary of Anne Frank is a firsthand look at what it was like to be a teenage girl in hiding during the holocaust. This book is literally a diary. It talks about Anne’s problems with her mother and her feelings of isolation. Because this is non-fiction, the Nazi forces that found the Franks determined the ending. There is not an author hiding in the background with symbolism and foreshadowing, it is simply a personal account of a tragic time in a family and a country’s history.


This particular book is one of those books read in schools, so by default, it has been challenged. Parents considered this thirteen-year-old girl’s diary to mature for their thirteen-year-old children to read. Some of the chapters of this girl’s DIARY consist of her growing knowledge of puberty and sex. Parents say they want their children to be exposed to such themes at home. I, personally, think this is ridiculous. KIDS TALK. I first learned about sex and what it entails from a public school system and the talk of my classmates. Parents should talk to their kids about these things, yes, BUT a parent should be aware that they should start young if they want to ingrain their notions of sex and such on their child. So, this is an inadequate reason for the book to be banned or censored.


This book is historically significant. Something so historically significant should not be banned for a reason so trivial as parents fighting over who gets to tell their kid that sex is a thing. It is about the HOLOCAUST. IT DOES NOT HAVE A HAPPY ENDING. The Diary of Anne Frank forces children to look at the fact that this tragedy happened to PEOPLE. I personally have gained a better understanding of what exactly the holocaust was and the many ways it impacted people’s lives. The Diary of Anne Frank has a way of impacting people with its raw realism. It puts you in the holocaust in a way only rivaled by the museums dedicated to the deceased. The diary of a girl hiding from murderers of her race is a book everyone should read.


Rating: on a scale of this is my for fun for fun reading TO this book will change your life I give it about a 7. I think everyone should read it to be an educated human being.



(Also: There have actually been some adaptations of The Diary of Anne Frank: a stage adaptation and two movie adaptations.  However, these versions tried their best to make Anne seem more innocent and less worldy as she does in her actual diary. Because of that, we do not recommend watching the adaptations in place of reading the book.

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On Banning Books

On Banning Books

            “Read a few lines and off you go over the cliff. Bang, you’re ready to blow up the world, chop off heads, knock down women and children, destroy authority.” –Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.

Remember that book Fahrenheit 451? You know, the one by that guy who hated technology. And it was about how when people stop reading books, the entire society will get dumber and we will all eventually just sit around all day and watch TV and just not care about anything, ever? Well… there’s some truth to that.

This does not mean there will literally be an organization that refers to themselves as “firemen” coming to your house to burn your private library. However, everyday there are people crying for books to be taken out of libraries.

Historically, people who try to censor are do it for the best intentions. The book doesn’t agree with their stances on religion (Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species), or it might be uncomfortable sexual themes (Vladimir Nobokov’s Lolita), or it showcases some newer, more progressive social ideas (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World). When they try to censor, they are not going to damage, they are trying to protect. (Karolides et al)

It is not that I do not think that people have the right to pick and chose what they’re child is aloud to read.  I think it is the parent’s right to decide what it appropriate for their child to read.  If the parent decides that a book assigned by the school is not appropriate for their child, they have the right to bring their concerns to the school and ask for an alternate reading, or for them to take another look at the book if they feel like it is way off the mark of what they consider appropriate for the child’s age level.

That being said, there seems to be a common series of events that happens when a book goes under attack: first, the kid will come home with the book, the parent will take a look at it and deem it inappropriate for their child to read.

Now, here’s the part where the well-meaning parent steps over the line: though the school will typically say that the child can have an alternate assignment to read, which the parent then decides that since they believe that the book is inappropriate for their child, then it is inappropriate for all the children in the grade. And thus, they call for a ban on the book.

As much I understand the mentality of the parents need to protect their child from harmful themes, I never got the logic of “How dare they force my child to read a book I don’t approve of? I’m going to fight this by trying to have a say in what all the other children get to read to stop this infringement of my rights!”

But here’s the thing: most books have passages that sound really bad when you take them out of context. If you only read the questionable parts, then a book about the lives of a poor Southern family carrying their mother to her final resting place then becomes a book about abortion that has curse words every other page. Or a novel commenting on the poor treatment of African-Americans before and after the abolishment of slavery turns into an uncomfortable and offensive pile of filth due to the frequent inclusion of one very powerful word. Or one of the most powerful books against Communism of all time turns into smut because of one chapter.

Here’s all I ask: if you think that a book may not be suitable for your kid, do the rest of us a huge favor: read it first.

No really, if you’re right and it is not something you feel students should be reading, then you can bring your case to the school board intelligently and with a strong argument. If not, well you probably just read a good work of fiction. You win both ways, right?

When these well-meaning parents demand the book to be censored, they are helping no one, least of all themselves. Censorship helps no one, information needs to be spread, ideas need to grow, people need to experience for themselves. All censorship does is stifle ideas, which is something that I don’t think Mr. Bradbury would approve of.

Let me sum it up for you like this: the absolute and best argument against censorship is:

 censored photo

And this is what prompted me to announce this a new series here on Textual Details: The 100 Banned Books Series, in which myself and two other smart, funny people take a look at some of the most banned books in the history of literature.

From Lolita to Animal Farm, from Galileo to Stephen King, and from the Karma Sutra to the Bible itself, every other week there will be a post in the 100 Banned Books Series.  Meanwhile, there will also be more modern posts, starting with Darren Shan’s other famous young adult book series,  The Demonata.  However, first we will have a couple of end of the year countdowns, everybody loves those, right? And finally, next summer I have another surprise in store, but you’ll have to wait until then to find out what it is.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and I hope you will join me for another great year at Textual Details!

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