Banned books reveal good in life

Sheng Qu


One night I had a chance to glance over a specially displayed bookshelf where there was a number of books that had been banned somewhere in the world during certain periods of time. To my surprise, many of them were books I read in my English literature class last year — for instance, “The Catcher in the Rye,’’ ‘’Lord of the Flies,’’ ‘’Of Mice and Men,’’ ‘’To Kill a Mockingbird,’’ etc. A few minutes later I checked out all of the books mentioned above and walked back to my dorm.

They were brilliant works written by great and distinctive minds, possessing power to dismantle our boredom and apathy. They return us back to an awareness of fundamental respect for fellow human beings. By reading them in an American high school literature class, I gained a deep appreciation of the importance of liberal education and freedom of speech in this country. Even though those books were blocked away from the public in a democracy, freedom of expression was justifiably restored in the end. We have witnessed this triumph by reading these authors’ books. Honestly, except for one or two, almost all the books that I had to read last year in high school were banned to read at some point before. From that we get the idea of just how significantly books like these have impacted society’s educational system overall. Though forbidden and despised by some, they were of essential value to mankind, as following generations realized. This is progressive.

I’m happy about the miraculous transformations and great leaders in this country — from a struggling British colony to independence, becoming a country based upon solid Christian values. From a country with the largest number of slave-owners to the most successful democracy in the world, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. to Barack Obama, countless admirable figures arose and led people to trust each other and innovate and make a future together. However, nothing exists without flaw, especially when we live in an imperfect world. Just look around, and without further notifications the answer is easily found. There is nothing but discrimination to be prohibited in a democracy. Yet it’s not rocket science. Racial minorities are living in a much less stressful and more respectful environment in the U.S. than any other time in the history of this country, and it appears it’s getting better every day. Sometimes I feel it’s not enough. But maybe it’s too demanding to ask for too much.

It doesn’t take long for someone to understand that we live in a world full of differences and conflicts. Many of these things are contradictory to themselves; however, they always have an explanation behind them. Once we know the explanation, it hurts and we’re left in dismay. But we have no choice but resignation, for the preservation of a larger and hopefully sustainable good, broadly like our country, our family, narrowly, our own survival. One imagines how good it would be if we lived in a world where no differences were made. How good it would be if there were no religions, no rich and poor, no black or white or yellow or brown, but all were the same. However,      with a little more scrutiny we can realize this isn’t going to happen, otherwise we would all perish of boredom. It’s curious to think about that, because when the differences and conflicts persist, inequality becomes a constant element of life we never get rid of. In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger wrote this:

‘’Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.’’’

‘”Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hotshots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.’’

Do you agree? I tell you I don’t. I wouldn’t be living to write this article if I should stumble on this quote forever, because life is not only about colorfulness, but also about meaning. My life is meaningful when I strive for something worthy to be pursued. Why is it necessary to have all the advantages in life and then recognize life to be worth living for? Perhaps you focus more on what’s important and despite all the other disadvantages you may have, you are able to save your precious time to get what matters the most. Like the books banned by authorities that have tremendous truth and reveal real human conditions, question the essence of life during those hard times. More resistance oftentimes results in a more notable improvement and personal triumph. Why not? We live to prove.


Sheng Qu is a freshman majoring in mathematics. He can be emailed at [email protected].