By: Page Novak, UA undergraduate
This fall, step into the lobby of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall to see Page Novak’s display of banned books celebrating Banned Book Week, which was September 21-27.
Novak’s exhibition will be up for the remainder of the semester, but in case you can’t manage to stop by, you can read more about the books she selected to feature here. Today, she shares information about Ulysses and 1984; Wednesday she will discuss To Kill a Mockingbird and Beloved.
Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce is set in Dublin, Ireland during the day of June 16, 1904. The novel begins at eight o’clock when one of the main characters, Stephen Dedalus, wakes up for work. Stephen teaches history at Garrett Deasy’s boys’ school. Dedalus meets Deasy, who wants Stephen to take an editorial to his friends at the newspaper company. That same morning, Leopold Bloom brings his wife Molly her mail and breakfast in bed. At each following hour of the day, Stephen and Leopold’s actions are noted. Bloom and Dedalus finally meet at the end of the novel.
The novel Ulysses is one of the most challenged and controversial books in history; it was banned in the United States until 1934. U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey presided over the court case United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses in 1933. He ruled the novel was not pornographic and, a decade after it was published in Ireland, Ulysses would legally debut in the United States. However, it was quickly banned in communities in both the US and the United Kingdom to the novel’s strong sexual themes. Some groups, such as the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, even took legal action to not allow this book to be sold in the United States. Ulysses still resides on the top 100 most challenged books in the United States and Apple, the company that sells iPhones and iPads, even declined to sell the novel when it was turned into a digital comic because of the presence of nudity.
1984 (1984) by George Orwell describes a society under a dictatorship. The novel opens when Winston Smith, one of the main characters, is upset about the control that the Party has on the nation of Oceania. Winston illegally buys a diary in which to write his thoughts about resisting the party, but he gets frightened when Julia, a dark haired girl at the Ministry of Truth, begins to seem suspicious of him. Smith becomes interested in one of the powerful Party members, O’Brien, who Winston thinks is actually a member of the secret Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, whose leader is Emmanuel Goldstein, is a secret and legendary group that plans to overthrow The Party one day. Winston is called to O’Brien’s apartment with Julia to talk about the Brotherhood, not knowing that he being betrayed. O’Brien, a Party spy, has soldiers carry out Winston to a place called the Ministry of Love, where he is tortured and brainwashed. When O’Brien is just about to have rats strapped to Winston’s face, Winston loses his composure and tells O’Brien to torture Julia and not him. This moment shows how Winston is broken. He sacrifices his love for his life, conceding his political orientation as well as his personal morals.
Many who read 1984 seem to think that events in the novel parallel similar problems faced by societies during the twentieth century. The need for privacy, ongoing sexual repression, and the rise of nationalism are all key themes that strike a chord in readers. After the novel was translated into Russian, it was soon banned from the U.S.S.R, since many there thought it related to Joseph Stalin’s teachings. In 1981, a Florida county challenged the novel for its “pro-communist” acts and explicit sexual details. Amazon deleted 1984 from their Kindle database in 2009, which caused them to be accused of censorship. However, the novel 1984 was still under copyright protection until the year 2020, which was the reason they deleted the book from their website. To this day, 1984 continues to be removed from circulation in school districts.