My examination of banned books of the 1940s and 1990s was an endeavor to compare two vastly different decades based on family values and social norms. Going in it seemed fairly obvious: the Forties were predominantly focused on World War II, women going to work, and layers of memorable culture in the entertainment industry, predominantly sports and film. Notable films of the decade include Citizen Kane, It’s A Wonderful Life, and the Walt Disney films Bambi, Dumbo, and Pinocchio. Though not the only themes of the decade, these films highlighted the popular themes of family life, romance, and childhood, reflecting the social climate of the decade.
In contrast, the Nineties were dominated by politics and economics. The decade did share some similar qualities, such as the entertainment industry and the rise of hip hop and the Internet. As the world grew faster and schools were moving to incorporate technology into their classrooms, children started to become the leading experts on pop culture. Alongside this change was the AIDS epidemic growing from the 1980s into the 1990s. Though the epidemic peaked in the early part of the decade according to the CDC it most likely still maintained its impact on American families and what they would allow into their homes and libraries. To explain the other books such as Harry Potter or The Giver, it seems likely that amongst turbulent politics books depicting questionable characteristics such as sexuality, violence, and magic would be cause for heightened concern from parents who fear corruption of their children. This compares well with books in the Forties such as The Naked and the Dead or A Streetcar Named Desire. Communities then were fearing the demise of the world from war and Communism, and any disruption of sexuality, violence, and foul language would be cause for concern for the well-being of America’s children.
Unfortunately, the most difficult part of creating this simple infographic was explaining it. The intention was not to create an elaborate research paper, but in order to provide a suitable explanation I did attempt a bit of research. Due to the lack of credible sources online I would quickly realize that it would take extensive research into textbooks and databases to provide the quality of explanation acceptable for an academic endeavor, or at least my standards. It is, perhaps, a project for another time, but for now I have provided the sources for a particular issue I found troubling in my brief research, and here is what we really need to look at in regard to the infographic.
I provided a quote for the explanation of the banning of Robert Penn Warren’s novel All the King’s Men that I had found on Wikipedia. The article on Wikipedia was not cited, so I looked into the quote.
It traced back to a small magazine in New Orleans called the Nola Defender, where an unnamed author of an online article titled “The Challenging of All the King’s Men” quotes the author Dawn B. Sova and her book Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds.
Then I read the passage it was taken from. Unfortunately, Sova was not talking about All the King’s Men when she wrote “They complained that the novel contained a depressing view of life and ‘immoral’ situations,” (Sova 142). Sova was talking about Ernest Hemingway’s book A Farewell to Arms, and she had been discussing it…for three whole pages!
I wish the author of the article was named, just so I could yell at them for their disgraceful journalism and lack of research. How did they find this quote? Did they even read Sova’s book?
This is the passage taken out of context:
In 1974, parents of student in the Dallas (Texas) Independent School District demanded that [A Farewell to Arms] be removed from the high school libraries, along with Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. They complained that the novel contained a depressing view of life and “immoral” situations.
How do you get that confused? It doesn’t say “the novels contained…” it says the novel, Hemingway’s novel.
Here’s the real punchline though. All the King’s Men was written in 1946. It was made by the Wikipedia article to sound as if it were banned in the Forties, but it wasn’t. As Sova writes, it was removed in 1974.
So: my whole infographic is ruined because one incompetent journalist couldn’t bother to read three pages.
That said I could also blame myself, but I’m not the one making false claims, just poorly-cited infographics. The lesson here, if there is one, is that in the future I’ll be doing my own fact-checking.
“Anne Frank Diary Offends Lebanon’s Hezbollah.” Ynetnews.com. Ynet, 6 Nov. 2009. Web. 06 Oct. 2016.