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Essay on Censorship in American Literature

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Censorship has been a big part of the world’s history and especially America’s history. One of the most quoted amendments to the United States constitution is the first amendment; “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ...” This amendment guaranteeing free speech, press, and religion is still heavily debated and contested today. Censorship, as a challenge to free speech and press has been allowed many times and has been heavily debated itself. Many people censor for many different reasons and in many different forms. Censorship itself is not always a bad thing and has in some cases been used for protection of the general population.
In the late 1900’s the clear and present danger clause was added to the constitution which added small print to the first amendment. The clause was added to stop people from opposing the draft and United States war efforts when entering world war one. The clause states that if speech or writing poses a clear and present danger to others than it is not permitted under the first amendment. Under the same principal, you can’t scream “fire” in a crowded theater without consequences.
Most cases of censorship have been driven by a fear of vice. Many early feminists who published pamphlets about methods of birth control were censored and their writing was rejected as sexually explicit. In 1914 a woman named Margaret Sanger started a pamphlet called “The Woman Rebel” which was an advocate of, and informer about birth control. Her pamphlet was suppressed by the United States Post office and deemed inappropriate. There has also be question about whether sexual expression should be treated the same as political or religious expression.
Sometimes a desire to do away with ...


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...audiences. Mark Twain once said about his novels “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “the Adventures of Tom Sawyer” "I wrote 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huck Finn' for adults exclusively, and it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean." - Mark Twain
Censorship is practiced by many people before the written word even reaches the eyes of the public. Once a book or newspaper article reaches the public it can also be censored by government agencies or the public itself. Censorship can also be beneficial to society at times. The clear and present danger clause makes it so that free speech can be limited if it causes danger to others.



Works Cited

MccGwire, Scarlett. Censorship: Changing Attitudes, 1900-2000. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2000. Print.


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