WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?
Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.
HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?
Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!
(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)
THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:
Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen has been challenged for its depiction of the boy protagonist as nude. What is your response?
Maurice Sendak’s 1970 picture book In the Night Kitchen follows the adventures of a young boy who helps some bakers make a cake before morning. In the process, he loses his clothing, and is depicted as fully nude in the illustrations (including his front side). As a result, the book has been frequently challenged by concerned adults.
While some parents might not want their children to view an unclad child, censorship of a book can never be the answer. In a free society, a few individuals should not be able to hold enough power to prevent everyone from reading or accessing a book. It is ultimately the responsibility of parents to oversee what their children are reading and to help them select developmentally-appropriate books. The rest of society, including other parents, teachers, or librarians, cannot be responsible for attempting to “protect” children from books they personally deem harmful because doing so infringes upon the rights of others to read a book and make up their own minds about its content.
The perhaps annoying thing about protecting the right to read is that individuals ultimately will have to defend the existence of books and materials they personally dislike or think harmful or problematic, in order to ensure that they do not set a precedent for the banning of books. Just because one group or ideology is in favor at one point in time does mean they will stay there. Individuals who begin challenging and banning books may one day find that they have given their ideological opposites the same power and authority. It is something to think about when people begin demanding the removal of books from shelves in order to “protect the children.”
Readers do not have to like Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen. They don’t need to approve of it. They don’t need to read it. But they should allow other people the freedom to read controversial materials and to make up their own minds about its content. That is how a free society keeps censorship from becoming the norm.