Literary Outlaws

Jump on the "Banned" Wagon


Brave New World has been banned for its mention of sex and drugs, but other complaints center on the novel’s attitude, cited as being “depressive, fatalistic, and negative.” In 1993, parents asked for the novel to be removed from a required reading list because it “centered around negative activity.” The school board eventually reached a compromise that allowed students to choose an alternative book if they were offended by Huxley’s work.


The children’s classic Charlotte’s Web has been challenged many times, but most recently objections have arisen over the talking animals at the center of the book. In 2006, parents in a Kansas school district declared that “[s]howing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God.” In March 2014, the Chair of the Canadian Education Committee announced that he would like to see all books with talking animals removed from Canadian schools because they conflict with a child’s understanding of reality.


Although Huckleberry Finn has often been challenged in recent decades for its racist language, the novel was criticized much earlier for its use of slang. Concord Public Library banned it in 1885 for being “trash suitable only for the slums.” Denver Public Library banned it in 1902 and Brooklyn Public Library moved it out of the children’s room to the adult section because of its use of slang words such as “itch” and “sweat.”


Despite the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, his classic The Lord of the Rings has been banned in school and public libraries for being “irreligious.” It was even burned (along with several Harry Potter novels) in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in 2001 for being “satanic.” While one of the trilogy’s protagonists is a wizard, the books also contain themes of the return of a savior king and the fight against the temptation of evil.