Description of Rape
The earliest instances of the banning of “To Kill a Mockingbird” occurred because of disgust towards the blatant descriptions of the rape that the Ewells discuss at the trial. Opponents of the banning claim that this is a minor aspect of the book as a whole, but some parents and other adults believe that children should not be exposed to these concepts in school, especially when they could lead to further discussion.
Profanity and Racial Slurs
Since the book’s publication, some people have demanded that it be banned from schools or libraries because of the profanity in it. More recently, people have objected to the racial slurs that run rampant through the novel, including the fact that blacks are called “niggers” in the book. Opponents of the banning maintain that both the profanity and the racial slurs in the novel provide important historical context for the novel. The profanity shows how the Ewells and other characters in the book are low class and emphasizes the negative relationship between Bob and Mayella Ewell, while the racial slurs in the book help to portray the negative attitudes that the southern whites had towards their black neighbors.
Similarly, the most common recent reason for banning the book is due to the racism that is portrayed throughout the book. After all, the innocent black man doesn’t even get exonerated at the end of the book; instead, he is convicted and then killed upon escaping from prison. Opponents of the banning claim that Harper Lee wrote this novel to portray the injustice of the racist society depicted in the book, and that reading the book can help kids to understand how horrible prejudice can be. In addition, a book in the historical fiction genre must be accurate, and racism was, in fact, a fact of life in many southern cities during that time period.
Have you read the book? What did you think of these reasons? Did you find that it took away from the overall message of the story or were the graphic descriptions and racial overtones unnecessary?
This post is part of the series: To Kill a Mockingbird
A series of study guide articles on To Kill a Mockingbird, from character descriptions to plot summaries and an analysis of the novel’s symbolism.