Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Books Week 2009--Favorite Classics

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her novel Gone with the Wind. The novel is one of the most popular books of all time, selling more than 30 million copies (see list of best-selling books). An American film adaptation, released in 1939, became the highest-grossing film in the history of Hollywood, and received a record-breaking ten Academy Awards. Its record of eight non-honorary Academy Awards stood until 1958.

Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Eugene Mitchell, a lawyer, and Mary Isabelle, much referred to as May Belle, a suffragist of Irish Catholic origin. Mitchell's brother, Stephens, was four years her senior. Her childhood was spent in the laps of Civil War veterans and of her maternal relatives, who had lived through the Civil War.[citation needed]

After graduating from Washington Seminary (now The Westminster Schools), she attended Smith College, but withdrew during her freshman year in 1918. She returned to Atlanta to take over the household after her mother's death earlier that year from the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Shortly afterward, she defied the conventions of her class and times by taking a job at the Atlanta Journal. Under the name Peggy Mitchell she wrote a weekly column for the newspaper's Sunday edition, thereby making her mark as one of the first female columnists at the South's largest newspaper. Mitchell's first professional writing assignment was an interview with an Atlanta socialite, whose couture-buying trip to Italy was interrupted by the Fascist takeover.

Mitchell is reported to have begun writing Gone With the Wind while bedridden with a broken ankle. Her husband, John Marsh, brought home historical books from the public library to amuse her while she recuperated. After she supposedly read all the historical books in the library, he told her, "Peggy, if you want another book, why don't you write your own?" She drew upon her encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War and dramatic moments from her own life, and typed her epic novel on an old Remington typewriter. She originally called the heroine "Pansy O'Hara", and Tara was "Fontenoy Hall". She also considered naming the novel Tote The Weary Load or Tomorrow Is Another Day.

Mitchell wrote for her own amusement, and with solid support from her husband, kept her novel secret from her friends. She hid the voluminous pages under towels, disguising them as a Divan (furniture), hid them in her closets, and under her bed.  She wrote the last chapter first, and skipped around from chapter to chapter. Her husband regularly proofread the growing manuscript to help in continuity. By 1929, her ankle had healed, most of the book was written, and she lost interest in pursuing her literary efforts. The bulk of the work was written between 1925 and 1930 in an apartment Mitchell called "The Dump": the Crescent Apartments are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are operated as a museum to Mitchell's memory.

While Mitchell used to say that her Gone With the Wind characters were not based on real people, modern researchers have found similarities to some of the people in her life, and people she knew or heard of. For example, the character Rhett Butler may have been modeled after her first husband. The last thing he said to her (supposedly) was, "My dear, I don't give a damn", which Rhett says to Scarlett before he leaves her in the book. "Frankly" was added for the movie.

Mitchell was struck by a speeding automobile as she crossed Peachtree Street at 13th Street with her husband, John Marsh, on her way to see the British film A Canterbury Tale at The Peachtree Art Theatre in August 1949. She died at Grady Hospital five days later without regaining consciousness.  She was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. (from Wikipedia)

Incidents of Challenges:

Banned from Anaheim, Calif. Union High School District English classrooms (9178) according to the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association. Challenged in Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because the novel uses the word "nigger." Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle. (from ALA)

Another version of the story:  Banned in Anaheim, California for its depiction of the behavior of Scarlett O'Hara and the freed slaves in the novel; uses the word "nigger" (from Catherine Shafer, PhD)

My commentary:  To challenge the book because of Scarlett's behavior is just silly.  Mitchell just wrote slavery the way it was at the time of the book's setting--a fact of life.  Southern women prior to, and during, the Civil War would have probably behaved in a similar manner, although the character of Scarlett may be a bit exaggerated.  As for the behavior of the slaves, I have studied slavery and the Civil War and many slaves had been in captivity for so long, they knew nothing else.  Many elected to stay on with their former masters' families.  And I'm not even going to touch the "N" word.  To be a realistic Southern novel, pre Civil War and beyond, one must accept the fact that unfortunately this word was used quite frequently.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (baptised 26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard"). His surviving works consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language, and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

The works of Shakespeare have been challenged/banned many times in the past.  The following are notable cases of the attempts to ban The Merchant of Venice and the censorship in the past of certain works by Thomas Bowdler.

The Merchant of Venice (frequently challenged/banned)

Why was the Merchant of Venice so controversial?

William Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock in the Merchant of Venice makes the character one of the most controversial in Shakespeare’s entire body of work. Representative of the anti-Semitic stereotypes of the era, Shylock was depicted as a misery, Jewish moneylender who preyed on the poor.

Shylock overshadows everyone else in the play, though he has such a small role. When performed, the character was often played as a comic villain with a red wig associated with the devil, sidelocks, and a false, big nose, lending more support to the claims of anti-Semitism in the play. Examples of this stereotypical portrayal are evident in printings of the Merchant of Venice during the 18th and 19th Century as seen in Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.

Not mentioned in the play, though well known to the people of the era, is that during Shakespeare's day, money lending was one of the few careers open to Jews during the 16th Century, and Christians made deals with them daily. It is this hypocrisy in Shylock’s portrayal as a villain that has often caused critics to raise accusations of anti-Semitism.

Where has the Merchant of Venice been banned?

Though the Merchant of Venice has raised controversy and had been censored almost since its inception, it was not until the 20th Century that the play was banned. Since World War II, the Merchant of Venice has been banned in more classrooms than any other Shakespearean play.

  • In 1931, the Merchant of Venice was eliminated from high school curricula of Buffalo and Manchester, New York. Jewish organizations believed that it fostered intolerance.
  • Then in 1953, minority groups still felt that Shylock was depicted as an unfortunate characterization of a Jew and sought the suppression of the play.
  • And in 1980, the Merchant of Venice was also banned in Midland, Michigan schools due to the anti-Semitic depiction of Shylock. (my hometown...yikes!)
  • The Merchant of Venice is not banned in Israel. In fact, according to Sam Schoenbaum, a leading 20th Century Shakespearean biographer and scholar, it is one of the country’s most popular plays.
Attempts to bowdlerize the works of Shakespeare:

What does bowdlerize mean?


Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -ized; -iz·ing
Etymology: Thomas Bowdler died 1825 English editor
1 : to expurgate (as a book) by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar
2 : to modify by abridging, simplifying, or distorting in style or content

From the Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary

What are some notable examples of bowdlerization?

Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's original:

"the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon” – Mercutio, Act II, Scene 4, line 61

Bowdler's Family Shakespeare:

"the hand of the dial is now upon the point of noon"

Shakespeare's original:

"Tis true, and therefore women being the weaker vessel are ever thrust to the wall . . ." – Sampson, Act I, Scene I, line 13.


"not ope her legs to saint-seducing gold” – Romeo, Act I, Scene I, Line 206

Omitted from Bowdler's Family Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's original:

"Hie you to church; I must another way,

To fetch a ladder, by the which your love

Must climb a bird’s nest soon when it is dark;

I am the drudge and toil in your delight," - Nurse, Act II, Scene V, Ln 66-69.

Bowdler's Family Shakespeare:

"…I must another way,

I must go fetch a ladder for your love.

I am the drudge, and toil in your delight."

Shakespeare's original:

"Spread thy close curtain, love performing night" – Juliet, Act III, Scene II, line 5

Bowdler's Family Shakespeare:

". . . and come civil night".


Shakespeare's original:

"Even now, now, very now, an old black ram

Is tupping your white ewe. Arise, arise!"- Iago, Othello, Act I, Scene I, Ln 94-95

Omitted from Bowdler's Family Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's original:

“I am one, sir, that comes to tell you, your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.” - Iago, Othello, Act I, Scene I, Ln 121

Bowdler's Family Shakespeare:

“Your daughter and the Moor are now together,”


Shakespeare's original:

"Out, damned spot! out, I say!" - Lady MacBeth, Act V, Scene I, Ln 38.

Bowdler's Family Shakespeare:

"Out, crimson spot!"

(all the above obtained from

Dr. Ellen Caldwell explains the reasons some are afraid of the Works of Shakespeare:

“The real question is what are we afraid of? It’s not that words are dangerous; it’s that they are powerful,” said Dr. Ellen Caldwell, professor of Shakespearean literature.

While discussing the power of books, Caldwell used the example of Shakespeare’s play, “Richard the II,” a work she teaches in one of her courses.

“Act 4, scene 1: Richard II is usurped. When it was performed in 1596 and in Shakespeare’s lifetime, that scene was never printed or performed. The scene was not printed ’til 1608,” Caldwell said.

Seeing a monarch being overthrown is powerful imagery and is capable of creating ideas among the people. Caldwell said, “We must consider why it might offend and discuss it. I trust my students to have the ability to analyze controversial texts for themselves.” (from Daily Titan)

Gone with the Wind...perhaps one of the best novels of the 20th century and William of the best writers of all time.  It's shocking that anyone would even consider their censorship.  Such is the importance of Banned Books draw attention to these attempts and to help prevent the prevalence of this kind of activity.

If you haven't read these authors, exercise your freedom to read and pick them up.

Happy (Banned) Reading!


Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. WOW what a post! That was great to read....

    I have to comment on your blog theme here... spooky cool! :)

  2. Gotta love Banned books! Great post!

  3. I never knew Gone with the Wind was on the banned book list. It is one of my favorite books, and is so beautifully written.

    It is shameful that all these people think books like this should be banned.

    Fabulous post Michelle, as always :)

  4. Thanks everyone for commenting! I've enjoyed researching all the banning antics!

  5. This was very interesting (and that moving gallery to the side freaked me out, particularly with the spooky cemetery background). It was fun to read about Margaret Mitchell's life, and even better to go through the list of banned books.

  6. I'm really Glad i found this site.Added to my bookmark!

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