Gordon Parks' Novel, The Learning Tree Essay examples

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Gordon Parks' novel The Learning Tree, a social criticism in the vein of Richard Wright's Black Boy, was first published in 1963. This was the year of the March on Washington, Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, the year of the civil rights protests in Birmingham, in which the young protestors were blasted with fire hoses and attacked by police dogs by the order of Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull" Connor. This was the year of the Birmingham church bombing and the Medgar Evers murder (Brunner 2). It was in this explosive environment that The Learning Tree entered the world. Since then, the novel has been challenged based on accusations of obscenity four times; however, as an account of segregated America from the …show more content…
Nothing came of this, however.

The most recent challenge of The Learning Tree occurred in 2003, when, "After receiving complaints that the book The Learning Tree was too sexually explicit, Alexandria Senior High School's principal had it banned from a freshman English course" (Associated Press 1).

The reasons given for the challenges against Parks' novel are all legitimate in that the novel does contain obscene language, violence, and sexual content. For example, words like "bastard," "son-of-a-bitch," and "goddamn" are used throughout the novel. Towards the end of the novel, the character Marcus shouts, "You son-of-a-bitch! You black bastard! I'm gonna cut your fuckin' heart out" (Parks 228)!

Parks graphically describes violent acts, such as the shooting deaths of several characters and the brutal rape of Newt's aunt. Newt's friend Earl is hit by a train, and loses his foot, an event graphically described by the author. This would seem like gratuitous violence, however, since much of the novel is based off of the author's own experience, one is led to believe that Parks witnessed a similar event, which inspired Earl's misfortune. To claim that events that occur within the realm of reality are obscene is to claim that reality itself is obscene, which is an absurd assertion. Parks

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