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Censorship as an approach of banning designated books has been used to control the flow of sensitive materials in institutions, despite the freedom of expression being enshrined in the constitution. This strategy is intended to prevent inappropriate books, materials, or academic content from being advocated in learning settings to safeguard young and inexperienced people from culturally inappropriate or offensive resources. Such extreme information control avenues encourage culturally-acceptable content in educational materials to nurture the appropriate morals and virtues among the learners. The Flower for Algernon by Daniel Keyes is one of such books banned in the US due to its content. The resource recounts the story of Charlie Gordon, a mentally challenged individual who undergoes an intellectual enhancement experiment. The extensive use of inappropriate language and explicit sexual content in the book entrench unethical values among learners, leading to censorship.
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Culturally Inappropriate Language
The Flowers for Algernon has culturally inappropriate language characterized by obscenities and profanities, warranting its censorship. Charlie, the main character, depicts these profanities as he gains intelligence through lab encounters (Sova, 2019). For instance, he recalls a childhood memory of his mother ranting at the teacher. Charlie notes, “That bitch a teacher … I’ll scratch that dirty slut’s eyes out” (Keyes, 2004; p.72). This description of the teacher comprises obscenities that strain the student-teacher relationship.
Similarly, Fay uses profane language when describing her apartment, a culturally inappropriate approach. She notes, “Lousy patent locks are a pain in the ass … ripped goddam door” (Keyes, 2004; pp.174-175). This use of profanities to describe conventional experiences entrenches inappropriate behavior among the learners. Allowing such content in the classroom erodes values that shape learning institutions, leading to abusive language within these institutions (Brauer, 2016). It is challenging in such situations to nurture the appropriate values that foster respectful adults in society. Thus, these incidents of culturally inappropriate language in the material led to censorship.
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Explicit Sexual Content
The Flowers for Algernon has sexually explicit scenes that offer culturally awkward content to learners, leading to its school censorship. Books intended for institutions need to be restrained in their sexual content to provide the appropriate information to the students without compromising their learning process. Those with sexually explicit content fail to meet these requirements, leading to their censorship in learning institutions (Ferguson, 2014). The Flowers for Algernon has numerous incidents of sexually explicit content that led to its censorship (Sova, 2019). For instance, Charlie recounts a dream he had concerning Ellen. He notes, “I dreamed about that girl Ellen dancing and rubbing against me, and when woke up, the sheets were wet and messy” (Keyes, 2004; p.43). In a separate incident, he notes that this experience is called “a wet dream” and “it’s a natural thing that happens to boys” (Keyes, 2004; p.48). Although these statements recount bodily functions, their inclusion in the classroom text and detailing are problematic due to the character’s age. Such descriptions should have been reserved for non-classroom texts due to their sexually explicit content.
Lastly, the book has nude and erotic scenes that compromise its suitability for conventional classroom settings, leading to its banning in institutions. The author describes numerous female nude scenes for the characters that provide vivid images of the situation. These scenes are inappropriate for the classroom setting as they encourage sexual deviation among the learners. For instance, Charlie describes Fay after she meets her in the apartment. He notes, “She was in her underwear, lying on the floor, arms outstretched and legs up against the couch” (Keyes, 2004; p.207). This detailed description of Fay’s posture in the room enables the readers to visualize the erotic scene presented by the author. In a separate incident, Charlie describes his sexual encounter with Alice. He states, “I kissed Fay’s hair … throat, and finally came to rest upon Fay’s lips … I caressed her slowly at first and then with impatient, mounting excitement that would soon tell” (Keyes, 2004; p.206). This vivid description of the scene offers an erotic recounting of the event, which presents inappropriate content to the learners. Further, the casual sex scenes described in the narrative encourage discordant sexual behaviors that erode societal values. Hence, these descriptions led to the book’s banning as the nude scenes were inappropriate for lower-grade students.
Although the Flowers for Algernon provide a mentally-challenged individual’s emotional and intellectual development, the author’s language to describe these events is culturally inappropriate. First, Daniel Keyes uses obscene and profane language to describe specific events in the book. Further, he uses sexually explicit scenes with vivid descriptions, offering an awkward situation in the learning environment. Similarly, Keyes presents numerous nude settings and casual sexual encounters, encouraging discordant sexual behavior among the learners. These attributes pose a significant challenge in nurturing suitable values for lower-grade learners, jeopardizing the curriculum’s goals of building responsible adults. As a result, the book needs to redact inappropriate content in subsequent editions to enhance its acceptance in learning institutions. This strategy will resolve the current censorship, enabling learners to gain valuable insights without compromising the learning process. Thus, the profanities, sexually explicit content, and nude scenes in Flowers for Algernon led to its censorship.
- Brauer, L. (2016). Academic connection: Lessons in censorship: How schools and courts subvert students’ First Amendment rights. Children’s Legal Rights Journal, 36(3), 222-227.
- Ferguson, C. J. (2014). Is reading “banned” books associated with behavior problems in young readers? The influence of controversial young adult books on the psychological well-being of adolescents. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8(3), 354-362.
- Keyes, D. (2004). The flowers for Algernon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- Sova, D. (2019). Literature suppressed on sexual grounds. Infobase Publishing.