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While the protection of children is a noble and necessary cause, censorship even in children's books, should not be done. The core of the issue lies in the question of who would have the power to judge a children's novel of containing offensive material, and furthermore what the term offensive material would cover. Who would decide what should be censored is extremely controversial and nearly impossible to answer. Globalization has made the idea of a monolithic culture within a country a thing of the past with multiculturalism becoming the norm in North America. Thus finding a consensus without the huge number of beliefs and cultures would be extremely difficult as something that may be offensive to one group may not be offensive to another. Thus any attempt by a government organization, teachers group or religious group would be completely impossible.
People who believe in censorship of children's books have done little to prove that their measures are necessary or actually benefiting children, or that violence in books has caused an increase in violent behaviour in children. The society in which the children of today are growing up in is markedly different than that of a generation ago, with the Internet, video games and television all within easy access. Unless all forms of media could be censored for children, censorship of books would be ineffective and meaningless. For example, it is nonsensical to expurgate violence of books when it is so graphically and freely portrayed on the news. Children also mature at different rates, and it would thus be unjust to constrain them in their choice of reading material.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis is a perennial favourite with children but has been met with some objection because of its religious undertones and description of violence and war. The book is the first of seven in the Chronicles of Narnia series, which center on a group of children in the mythical land of Narnia. The character of Aslan the Lion is a Christ like figure who appear in the series. The novel also contains a scene where Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund's sins, and is thus thought to serve as an allegory of Christ's crucifixion. The Christian themes in the book have prompted critics to state that it series was intended to proselytize and promote Christianity. The terrifying creature and war sequences in the series have also been criticized. In one scene, one of the main characters Peter; a boy of thirteen is forced to join the war the free Narnia. His first kill is described in detail, "He had just enough time to duck down and plunge his sword, as hard as he could, between the brute's forelegs into its heart. Then came a horrible, confused moment like something in a nightmare. He was tugging and pulling and the Wolf seemed neither alive nor dead, and its bared teeth knocked against his forehead and everything was blood and heat and hair." (Lewis, 144) Many have cited graphic passages such as this a glorifying war and violence and unsuitable for children. It is important to note that this novel was written during World War II and many of its plot themes are greatly affected by it. The White Witch who is the protagonist in the story and Narnia under her rule are deeply reminiscent of the authoritarian and totalitarian rule that was common in Europe at the time the book was written. Thus the themes in the book would have been no different than what children in Europe were experiencing by living through that time. While the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe does have descriptions of violence and religious nuances the story is fundamentally about the relationship between siblings, the bonds they share and the consequences of greed.
Roald Dahl is another favourite author of children's books who has been greatly criticized for his use of frightening imagery and violence that many have claimed are not suitable for children. In his novel The BFG, Dahl tells the story of an orphan girl named Sophie who is kidnapped by a friendly vegetarian giant living among a colony of cannibalistic giants. The BFG is portrayed as an outsider in the group, bullied and tormented by the others, "In the end, they got bored with this game. They dumped the poor BFG on the ground. He was dazed and shattered. They gave him a few kicks and shouted, 'Run, you little runt! Let us be seeing how fast you is galloping! The BFG ran. The giants picked up rocks and hurled them after himâ€¦'Ruddy little runt! They shouted. 'Troggy little twit! Strivelly little shrimp!" (Dahl, 75) While violence is depicted, it would be naÃ¯ve to assume that children are unfamiliar with bullying and Dahl's overarching message is the importance of individuality, standing up for what you believe in and not giving into peer pressure, which is without a doubt an important lesson for children to learn. The book has also been criticized for its description of cannibalistic giants who feast on children in the middle of the night, with critics deeming it as being too frightening for children. The character Sophie is also horrified with the giants in the story and this leads to an interesting discussion with the BFG. The character of the BFG points out that the giants are not in fact cannibals as humans are not the same kind as them, and thus the giants and humans do not differ in that they both kill smaller creatures then themselves for sustenance. He then states, "Human beans is the only animals that is killing their own kindâ€¦But human beans is squishing each other all the time,' the BFG said. "They is shooting guns and going up in aeroplanes to drop their bombs on each other's heads ever week. Human beans is always killing other human beans." (Dahl, 79) While violence is an important feature of the novel, Dahl a veteran of WWII, main message is against violence and war, and that thought provoking statement is an important one to teach to future generations.
The questions that remain on who would have the ability to censor and how the criteria for what is inappropriate would be decided are reasons enough to fight against censorship. While it might be an exaggeration, the fact remains that allowing monitoring and censoring of children's literature could lead to a slippery slope in which all media is censored. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Big Friendly Giant are both popular children's books to promote literacy, and children would have been deprived if the proponents of censoring these books had their way.
Challenges to Library Materials.American Library Association. 13 August 2010.
Dahl, Roald.The BFG. London: Puffin Books, 1982.
Lewis, C.S. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: Harper Collins, 1978.