The strangeness of their partnership is evident both to the reader and to the people who George and Lennie encounter.
But one look at the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged and banned books could take the gloss off that optimistic view of American openness.
Since the ALA list deals most specifically with school and library challenges and bans rather than with broad legal cases, it tells the often-overlooked story of what censorship looks like at the community level.
While some of the complaints about the novel—particularly those about the book’s inclusion of racial slurs—certainly merit evaluation, it’s hard to shake the feeling that there’s a more fundamental reason that the book has repeatedly raised hackles.
It is, after all, a work in which two men, who are not blood relatives, are deeply bonded.
No doubt, there’s plenty of room for discussion about what we should or should not be reading in classrooms, but it is jarring to see texts like In the book, two migrant workers, George and Lennie, have come to a ranch near Soledad, California, to find work.
They speak of saving their stake so that they can one day buy a little place where they’ll “live off tha fatta the lan’,” as Lennie puts it.Things inevitably go awry for George and Lennie and the possibility of realizing their dream dissolves entirely.The story is a tragedy predicated on the idea that working one’s fingers to the bone for little pay and no security is fundamentally corrupt.I’ve been using their services for a year now, and they have never let me down.When I realized I couldn’t keep up with football practice and essays, I decided to hire someone to complete the homework for me.For two decades, it held that dubious honor, and if the book is challenged less frequently in recent years, I’m less inclined to believe that this is the result of people coming to their senses.Rather, fewer challenges to the text likely means that the book isn’t being taught or read as frequently as it once was even though now more than ever, it’s a book we need to read.There have even been claims that the book promotes euthanasia.In an ironic twist, while the book hasn’t been used to justify any actual cases of assisted suicide that I could find, it controversially been used in Texas as a measure of when it’s acceptable to administer the death penalty to a criminal of diminished intellectual capacity.One of the first things one might notice about the ALA list is that it’s chock-full of books often taught in public schools.That observation is partly tautological— the books that are challenged are those that are taught in schools.