Banned Book Week – Focus on “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

For Banned Book Week, one of the stories that Ii selected to read from the Banned Book List in the United States was “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. The main reason why the book was banned because of the swear words from the characters’ dialogue (ALA.org). My reaction to the story was that although it is set during a depressing time in American History, there is a lot that can be learned from this. Steinbeck presented fictional characters in a real-life situation that reflected the times of the Great Depression and how families struggled to make ends meet. In the story, when the family has to move from Oklahoma to California, they face so many struggles that tears away at their family. By the time they arrive to California, some members of the family have either abandoned the rest or have died. It almost seems that there is no promise or guarantee for the Joads by the time they reach California, which in a way, can be related to life now, especially with the economy and recession going on. People back then and even today are struggling to make ends meet and sometimes they will have to resort to moving from one place to another in hopes of finding something better.

I disagree with the reasons for the book being challenged because in most media today, almost everyone swears. Although just thirty years ago, cursing in public and on media were predominantly done in R-rated movies or shown only on cable television, but today, those times have changed, therefore, the book should not be banned. Depending on the reader of the novel, some of the biggest concerns could be if a young student were to read the novel and think that it is okay to say some of the profane languages in the novel. However, a late adolescent/young adult (around the age of 15-18 years old) should know never to say these words aloud or in public to another person. Some readers of the novel may only be concerned of that aspect when they are missing the whole plot and moral of the story itself.

The argument that I would make to a library board for retaining the title on the shelves is the historical and realistic aspect of the story. Even though it may be perceived as a fictional family and a fictional story, the historical aspect of it is real indeed. The author himself experienced the Great Depression firsthand and instead of writing it in a newsworthy way (such as an article), he decided to do so from a personal intimate and creative aspect that would get the attention of people during his era as well as our own. By censoring such a historical novel, instead of learning how to prevent situations like such and how to react to them, history may repeat itself if we decide to hide and neglect learning from past mistakes. Seeing as how the book was challenged during his era since it was so realistic to negative aspects of life, nearly eighty years later, that same mistake almost repeated itself when the stock market went to a record low since 1929 back in 2008.

ALA.org (n.d.). Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics/reasons

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