Why was The Great Gatsby banned?

The Great Gatsby has been banned and challenged primarily for its depictions of extramarital affairs, and its unsettling and violent ending, and its depiction of irresponsible alcohol consumption.

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The Great Gatsby is considered a classic in the American literary canon and is widely taught in schools. However, like many classic literary works, it has been banned or challenged in some school districts. The Great Gatsby is most often challenged due to its adult themes and content that some...

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The Great Gatsby is considered a classic in the American literary canon and is widely taught in schools. However, like many classic literary works, it has been banned or challenged in some school districts. The Great Gatsby is most often challenged due to its adult themes and content that some consider immoral or otherwise inappropriate for children. Perhaps one of the most notable recent challenges to the book came in 2020, when an Alaskan school board voted to remove it, along with other "controversial" works, from district classrooms.

One of the primary objections to the book is its sexual content and depiction of extramarital affairs. In 1987, the book was challenged at Baptist College in Charleston, South Carolina, for its coarse language and "sexual references." Though The Great Gatsby does not contain any graphically sexual or explicit scenes, several characters conduct affairs throughout the novel. Tom is fairly open about his extramarital affairs, at one point even leaving dinner to speak with his mistress Myrtle. Myrtle herself is married, though she seems more emotionally attached to Tom than to her husband. Of course, the central relationship of the book—that between Gatsby and Daisy—is also an affair, as Daisy is married to Tom. Their affair is facilitated through the narrator, Nick, who helps them reconnect and later meet in secret.

The book also contains depictions of violence, including Myrtle's death in a car accident and Gatsby's murder at the hands of Wilson (who then kills himself). Myrtle's death in particular is described in graphic detail, which some might find too violent for younger audiences. Some audiences may also find it objectionable that Daisy is never held accountable for accidentally killing Myrtle.

Finally, the book is set in the midst of Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties, and the alcohol flows freely at Gatsby's huge parties—in one instance even leading to a drunken car crash. Though the book doesn't necessarily endorse this behavior, some adults and religious groups have argued that such depictions of irresponsible partying and drinking inappropriate for children.

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