John Steinbeck

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Banned Books #15 – Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Published September 28, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world.

Drifters in search of work, George and his simple minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy becomes a victim of his own strength.

Tackling universal themes and giving a voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved to be one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

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Welcome to our ninth book of 2015 and the fifteenth book in our series of Banned/Challenged Books. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. This is what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2015 – the post will go out on the last Monday of each month so if you’d like to read along with us, you are more than welcome.

OCTOBER

Forever by Judy Blume

Chosen by : Beth

NOVEMBER

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Chosen by : Chrissi

DECEMBER

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Chosen by: Chrissi

First published: 1937

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)

Reasons: offensive language, racism, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is very difficult. The book was published a while ago (1937) which means attitudes were quite different to nowadays. In terms of offensive language, I don’t think there is anything particularly offensive to warrant the book being challenged but agree that there is racism and violence. I don’t think these particular reasons should lead to a book being banned however as long as it is geared towards an age-appropriate audience. Of course any type of racism or violence is abhorrent and uncalled for but in a book such as this it can be explained by the attitudes during that time (while still being wrong!) if that makes sense.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I think it’s really difficult to judge. I can see why it can be a contentious subject as it includes racism, but I think it’s a book to be studied and discussed. Luckily, in the UK it is quite widely read in English Literature with 15-16 year olds. There is so much to be discussed in this book, and that can be achieved with a open dialogue between teachers and students. I hope that more secondary/high school teachers are taking this book on, because it’s incredibly educative.

How about now?

BETH: Especially not now! I did hate that Crooks, the only black man in the group was discriminated against and laughed about but with the right teacher and, as I mentioned, an age-appropriate audience, it could be a very interesting lesson in history about how the world is changing while still remembering there is some work to do. I don’t think children (or anyone) should be shielded or protected from tough issues represented in literature. We need to learn from our mistakes and try to prevent the younger generation from making similar ones.

CHRISSI: It should not be banned right now. As I said before, I know it’s studied in a lot of secondary schools in the UK and I hope it’s being studied more worldwide. It’s educative, important, and as Beth says is a lesson on how we’ve moved on from such racism, but we still have a way to go.

What did you think of this book?

BETH: I loved this book so much! Strangely for me, I’d never read it before and when Chrissi chose it as one of our banned books for the year I was very excited to finally see what all the fuss was about. I really tried hard to steer clear of any spoilers before I started it and was pleasantly surprised and shocked when I finished reading! This is easily one of my favourite classics now and is such a short read it is quite possible to read in a day.

CHRISSI: As I read this book, I remembered hearing it at school. It was definitely a different reading experience this time round. I took a lot more away from it. I didn’t have the most inspiring English teacher and she just read it out to us, not really engaging with the material.

Would you recommend it?

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s personal star rating:

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Join us again on the last Monday of October where we will be discussing my choice of Banned Book – Forever by Judy Blume.

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The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

Published January 21, 2013 by bibliobeth

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Whats it all about?:

Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human, yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.

What did I think?:

I read this book half out of curiosity as I had never read any Steinbeck before (and yes…Of Mice and Men is on my TBR list don’t shriek at me!) and half for a book club. I have to admit it started off pretty slow and it took me a while to get into it. Steinbeck was incredibly angry about what was going on in America during this time period and this book is definitely him sounding off. Did he do it well? Well, yes he did convince me in the end. I loved the way he put in interstitial chapters which took the reader away from the fictional Joad family directly, and informed you that this situation was actually happening. This passage was one that really spoke to me:

“The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy; growing heavy for the vintage.”

The Joad family have some intriguing characters – Noah who is a bit strange, Al the ladies man, Tom the jailbird, and the two slightly irritating younger children Ruthie and Winfield. Ma Joad had to be my favourite though, a woman not afraid to stand up and protect her family with dignity that demands respect. Everything considered, I’m glad I read this novel, a slow burner but its worth it.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars