Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Banned Books Week 2023 - Huxley's Brave New World

As promised, I'm sharing the banned/challenged books we are reading this year for the 1000 Books Project at Gather Together and Read. Today the focus is on why Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has been banned or challenged.

A favorite among book challengers for nearly 80 years, Aldous Huxley's 1932 novel was banned in Ireland shortly after publication. With its themes of sexual promiscuity, drug use and suicide, "Brave New World" tells a story in a bleak future where the populace is manipulated and controlled by the state. Schools in Miller, Mo., banned "Brave New World" in 1980 because of its characters' acceptance of promiscuous sex.

The book was challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco, Calif., Unified School District in 1993 because it "centered around negative activity". The challengers cited the school's health curriculum, which taught sexual abstinence, and said the characters of "Brave New World" went against those teachings. A challenge in Mercedes, Texas, on the basis of adult content, resulted in the school board's ruling that school principals must offer alternate reading selections if parents challenge a book on a reading list.

Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, set in London in the year 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), has also become one of the most frequently censored books in literary history. It was #52 of the 100 most banned books of 1990-2001 and one of the 10 most frequently challenged books of 2010 according to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom for themes of sexuality, drugs, and suicide. Incidentally, it was the only classic on the list for that year.

The school board in Baxley, Georgia, banned “Brave New World,” along with John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”, and Richard Wright’s “Native Son” because a local church minister objected to the contexts, despite many of the community’s parents and teachers approving of the book.

Other reasons for banning it throughout the years in the United States include insensitivity and racism.

“Brave New World” has been challenged in Glen Burnie, Maryland for too much sexual content; while on the opposite coast it found itself in trouble in Seattle after a parent complained that the book has a “high volume of racially offensive, derogatory language, and misinformation on Native Americans. In addition to the inaccurate imagery, and stereotype views, the text lacks literary value which is relevant to today’s contemporary multicultural society.”

Perhaps Huxley foreshadowed the onslaught of censorship attempts his novel would endure in one of the most memorable dialogues of “Brave New World,” which is a fitting discussion point for any debate on censorship and book banning. Remembering Shakespeare, the character, John, says, “You got rid of them. Yes, that’s just like you- getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them… But you don’t do either.”

John also claims the “right to be unhappy,” and Mustapha says it’s also “the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what might happen tomorrow.”

The common thinking is that utopia is some far-off goal of the future, a state of being far removed from that of the present day; but utopia and dystopia are merely two sides of the same coin.

Part of what makes this book so controversial is the very thing that makes it so timeless- we want to believe that technology has the power to cure all, but Huxley shows the dangers all too well.

By removing all of the world’s sorrows and ills, humanity also rids itself of the true pleasures in life. There’s no real passion in a fixed and engineered society; no creativity; and no individuality. To know the pleasure, you must first know the pain. That’s the difference between having a life and living a life.

Source: Banned Books Awareness: “Brave New World” - Banned Books Awareness and Reading for Knowledge

A publicly documented case of a censorship attempt...

Clinton, Tennessee: Clinton Public Library

In February 2023, the library board voted against a proposal to create a special section of their library to house books related to gender identity and sexual orientation. The conversation was spurred by challenges to Grandad’s Camper, It Feels Good to be Yourself, and Families like Mine from members of a group that advocates for the censorship of library material with LGBTQIA+ representation. While the books were retained where they were originally shelved, members of the group went on to challenge numerous additional titles with LGBTQIA+ representation, including literary memoirs and sex education titles. The group has recently begun calling for the library director’s resignation and threatening community members who have publicly defended access to these resources. In August, the mayor of Anderson County and four county commissioners asked the sheriff to investigate whether 17 books available at public libraries, including Clinton Public Library, violate Tennessee’s criminal obscenity laws. Prosecutors have not brought charges.

Never miss a post!

* indicates required

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.

- See more at: