Censorship - A Clash of Wills and Morals Essay

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Censorship - A Clash of Wills and Morals

A list of the greatest literature of the English language could be compiled

almost solely by using a chart of the works most often censored

by schools and libraries. Some people believe that the books most frequently

banned consist only of trashy paperbacks and frivolous “beach-reading.”

However, usually in censorship cases, there is a clash of wills and morals

between the teacher or librarian who finds a work worthy of students’ and

community members’ time and the parent or citizen who sees little literary

value in the work of choice. Seldom is the teacher or librarian alone in thinking

a work justified for reflection. More often than not, the controversial work

has
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The reason a book is banned

and the reason a book is lauded are inextricably linked.

Controversial works are usually challenged on the basis of religious, sexual,

political, and social issues. However, it is interesting to note that most

works are actually censored not for the four reasons above, but for the

ambiguous charge of “obscenity.” In Lee Burress’s chart listing the most common

reasons for book censorship, the obscenity charge heads the list (Burress,

42). This charge usually remains relatively unexplained and is based on a few

choice swear words taken from the challenged text. Censors usually cling to

the obscenity charge because they believe it will

gather public support as the basis for removing books…If there

is substantial support for providing a wide range of materials then

charges restricting the intellectual content of a book, its racial,

religious, or political ideas, are less likely to receive much public

support, and so the frequency of [those] charges diminishes.

(Burress, 41-44)

More often than not the charge of “obscenity” is merely a cover for other

motives the censor may not feel comfortable making known.

As one studies the works charged with “obscenity” or “bad language,” it

seems blatantly clear that some other agenda is at work. Nicholas Karolides

notes that “not all attacks are identified forthrightly; it is apparently more

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