Spotlight on a Banned Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

As Banned Books Week 2016 kicks off, I'd like to take a moment and highlight a surprising resident on the "banned multiple times throughout history" list: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Originally published by Macmillan in 1865, this charming tale, as you all well know, follows a young girl down a rabbit hole into a world of fanciful creatures and delicious puns. Celebrating its 150th anniversary last year, Alice has seen a resurgence in popularity and continues to be the #1 best selling book at Buzz Bookstore.

All signs point to an everlasting classic that has stood the test of time, right? Well, it has had to withstand more than just time over its 151 year history. Notable, it has been banned three times for some very peculiar reasons.

1900s: Sexual Content

According to The University of Tulsa Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ran afoul of one local government in the US for sexual reasons.

In the early 1900s the state of New Hampshire banned the book from all public schools because the novel was accused of promoting sexual fantasies and masturbation. This accusation most likely refers to the questionable sexual activities of the author, not the novel’s content.
— The University of Tulsa Department of Special Collections and University Archives
 

1931: Anthropomorphism

General Ho Chien, a government censor in the Chinese province of Hunan, formally banned the book "for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings." He believed that putting humans and animals on an equal footing in front of children would be "disastrous" and was supremely insulting to humans overall.

I'm guessing he'd be thankful that he didn't live long enough to see "Zootopia".

1960s: Drug Use

In light of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit, it probably comes as less of a surprise that Alice was banned for promoting the use of drugs, what with all the hookah smoking lepidopterae and all. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica:

Back in the states, roughly a decade after Disney’s 1951 animated production of the film Alice in Wonderland, the book was again met with dismay—this time by parents in culture-changing America during the 1960s, as they believed that it, along with the movie, encouraged the evolving drug culture with its “overt” allusions to hallucinogenic drug usage. Even with such admonishments from various culture sects, Carroll’s pun-filled work has stood the test of time as well as been relished for its perceptive and original critiques of the then emerging mathematical, political, and social systems.
— Encyclopedia Brittanica

As with all banned books, I'd encourage giving this one a reread - especially if you haven't read it since you were a child. I recently picked it back up on advice of my father who still gets a kick out of all of Carroll's wordplay. Even in spite of all of the sex, drugs, and rock...er...anthropomorphized animals.

Check out all of the antique and collectible books at Buzz Bookstore!

Check out all of the antique and collectible books at Buzz Bookstore!