Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banned Book Weeks 2011: Gone with the Wind

If we are to continue to protect our First Amendment, we would do well to keep in mind these words of Noam Chomsky:

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all."

Who Challenges Books?

Throughout history, more and different kinds of people and groups of all persuasions than you might first suppose, who, for all sorts of reasons, have attempted—and continue to attempt—to suppress anything that conflicts with or anyone who disagrees with their own beliefs.

In his book, Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any direction.” He quotes Phil Kerby, a former editor of the Los Angeles Times, as saying, “Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.”

According to the Challenges by Initiator, Institution, Type, and Year, parents challenge materials more often than any other group.


Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

One of the most beloved novels in the history of America, Gone with the Wind has been challenged/banned for it's portrayal of the South, particularly in regards to slaves--the treatment of, negative references to, and behavior of slaves before, during, and after the Civil War.  What I ask again is, why is a book challenged for being historically accurate (as in the challenge of The Pillars of the Earth--see my post HERE)?  And, if it's a question of Mitchell's historical accuracy, here is a quote from an article written upon the re-release of the film, Gone with the Wind:

But all in all, her research was thorough and professional, and it paid off: According to many of the most prominent historians and writers of historical fiction of the day, she got things just right. Fact was the winner.

What were her research methods and skills? In a densely detailed 1991 biography of Mitchell ("Southern Daughter" by Darden Asbury Pyron), the author, a historian at Florida International University, wrote, "She spent a vast amount of time verifying historical facts. The fear of missing something or getting something wrong drove her to distraction."

That was after the novel was in manuscript form. She wrote a reader in 1937 that she had spent "ten years of reading thousands of books, documents, letters, diaries, old newspapers and interviewing people who had lived through those terrible times" in preparation for writing her first draft. (from The Baltimore Sun, by Theo Lippman Jr., August 9, 1998)

It's a shame that some parents believe they should shelter their children from the realities of history.  One important aspect of history is that it's a tool to help us understand the mistakes from the past and to helf us to learn from those mistakes.  Children need to know that such behavior and atrocity did occur so that they can learn what we have overcome--so they can learn that some past behavior was glaringly wrong.

Gone with the Wind is one of at least 46 classics on the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century that have been the target of ban attempts.

Specific Instances:
--In 1978, the Anaheim (California) Union High School District, according to the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Assocation, and as reported in Dawn Soya's Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds, for its depiction of the behavior of Scarlett O'Hara and the freed slaves in the novel. --The Online Books Page

--Challenged in Waukegan, IL School District (1984) because the novel uses the word "nigger."

Although these instances are not recent, it certainly does not mean that it can't, or won't, happen again.


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. I love that you quoted Noam Chomsky. *swoon*

    Can you believe that I've never read Gone With the Wind?

  2. I'd like to reread Gone with the Wind one of these days.

  3. that was one of my all time favorite books.

    I am beyond sorry to learn of this.

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