To Kill a Mockingbird: Necessary Discomfort

Ashley Kinney

Beth Gooding discusses the recent banning of To Kill a Mockingbird in from the curriculum of an American school

Set during the 1930s Great Depression in Alabama, the classic American novel tells the story of a white lawyer, Atticus Finch, who helps to defend a black man who has been falsely accused of raping a white woman. The racial theme has made To Kill a Mockingbird one of the most banned classics in America. The recent banning of the book from a public school in Mississippi is simply one in a long line of challenges the book has faced since being published in 1960.

The book has been banned for various reasons including the use of language in the book such as ‘nigger’ and ‘whore’, for containing adult themes such as sexual intercourse and rape and for ‘conflicting with the values of the community’. However, the most recent reasoning for the banning of the novel certainly deserved the backlash it received. The Biloxi School Board simply stated that the book ‘made people feel uncomfortable’.

Books that cause us to question our values and society should surely be the most valuable in existence.

People took to twitter after hearing of the Mississippi school’s banning of the book, claiming that the whole point of the novel was to make you feel uncomfortable. The use of the N-word throughout the book should make readers squirm. Racism is still an issue today and teaching students about it through novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird can only be a positive thing. Twitter users posted that readers need to question why it causes them discomfort as that is the whole point of reading. Books that cause us to question our values and society should surely be the most valuable in existence.

Twitter users were also criticising this decision as it appeared to be attempting to ‘erase history’ that a few individuals felt uncomfortable about. If students are not taught about the history of racism, they will be unable to recognise racism in society today.

The Mississippi school on the 23rd October announced that the book would be returning to the school and students could learn about it but only after receiving a letter of permission from their parents. Although this is a positive move, it still leaves the book marginalised on the school curriculum. To Kill A Mockingbird needs to remain a central novel in today’s society as the issues in it are just as prominent today and should continue to make people feel uncomfortable until racial prejudice has been ended.