Who are you teaching? I've taught this book for YEARS and have NEVER had a class Horrified at this passage.
"They cannot relate to this character who is coerced into stating that patriarchal violence of olden times was good."
In your claim, did mother's never spank? If mothers spanked, is that evidence of a patriarchal society? Again, no one has EVER in one of my classes responded to these passages showing horror and outrage at these patriarchal passages of violence toward children. Typically, one spanks on the bottom, not for sexual reasons, as you imply, but becuase there is sufficient padding there that no harm is done in the spanking.
Obviously, I'm struggling with your concerns. They seem WAY out of balance to me.
"My initial suggestion to remove the line was not in favor of censorship, but because my first experience with the line was that when students were reading it literally and taking it at face value, they were getting the opposite message out of the book than I think was intended and it caused them to disengage and reject the book as too old or out of date."
This effort is censorship by definition. Again, read Bradbury's comments on this stuff. We begin, in a paternalistic arrogance, taking out passages of books we find offensive, and pretty soon, we lose the texture and truth in literature. I'm troubled at the idea that you seem to completely misunderstand Bradbury's message and yet are teaching this to students. I wish I could be there to provide a counterpoint.
That is my question, Mr. Dark. What was Bradbury actually saying? Was Bradbury being literal or ironic? I want to portray Bradbury as he actually is and was. I am asking people here to help me clarify what that is.
At first I thought that Bradbury was biased in favor of hitting children. Now, with insight from others here I think the piece of work clicks better and flows together better giving the writer credit for the intentional use of irony in Clarisse's lines and character.
I am seeking truth. Was the author mindlessly endorsing spanking or was he intentionally ironic? I now think that it is intentional irony and thus, the book promotes human rights.
Peace & Light
You seem to imply that spanking children is definitionally mindless. I disagree. Nevertheless, Bradbury seems to have included it as part of Clarisse's upbringing without making any kind of moral judgment about it at all. He is neither endorsing it or not endorsing it. I think this focus on whether this is child abuse or horrific or politically incorrect detracts from the novel and its message.
I'd wager Bradbury was speaking literally. It was in the normal run of things for a child to be smacked or spanked for a misdemeanour. That's probably why children DIDN'T run around killing each other. A brisk, physical reprimand - not "violence" - was a lesson well learnt. As Clarissa maintained, it made one behave responsibly.
Perhaps an ESL student might misinterpret the severity of a "spanking".
For political lunacy, I recommend "THE LANGUAGE POLICE: HOW PRESSURE GROUPS RESTRICT WHAT STUDENTS LEARN" by Diane Ravitch.
I couldn't have said it better Mr. Dark & tinkerbell. 451 is my favorite novel & not one letter or period should be changed ever. Let's say theoretically that something did get changed for the sake of censoring, it would render the whole theme and message of the book senseless, empty, and moot. One doesn't have to advocate or fight against violence to get that point.
She stood silently looking out into the great sallow distances of sea bottom, as if recalling something, her yellow eyes soft and moist...
Mountain out of a molehill.
Better not try killing moles either, in case People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals get wind of it. Just in case, better not say anything potentially derogatory of moles.
Thanks again everyone for all your links and help. I am finally understanding the work. As much as we joke about edits to pieces of work on freedom of speech as censorship, as a writer and editor I truly believe that all pieces of work are given a wonderful opportunity at every reprint to clarify any unclear passages and fix any spelling or grammar. I don't honestly consider clarification to improve communication, meaning and flow to be censorship and my point of concern was clarity of meaning. The more I reflect on dramatic irony the more I give Bradbury credit for using dramatic irony to further the mood and theme. I give him credit for writing well, planning well and creating with intention, rather than being a biased and blind product of his time. I didn't get it at first because like the dramatic irony at the end of Lord of the Flies, who will save the crew which Stephen King highlights and like the dramatic irony in Merchant of Venice, the use of it is subtle and it was lost on the first group of students and myself. But when I went with Doug's affirmation of irony, the whole work came together for me and had more depth. Of course the writer is aware of the portrayal of the character as a reflection of the brainwashing he is critiquing.
Thanks everyone for taking time for this thread. Sometimes the literary devices of even the best of writers lack clarity on a first read and that is why I think there could be value in a tiny bit of editing when the next reprint comes up. I honestly don't see tiny changes to help clarify a message as censorship. What writer doesn't edit for clarity so that the message is heard instead of obscured? I've been thinking I might even make this an optional essay topic for future students if they are confused by it. What was confusing was separating the author's beliefs/ attitudes toward girls and children from Clarisse's words. The first group of students felt wary of the book because they thought that the author was a proponent of violence, which is a behaviour based in faulty logic. Anyway, if students are stumped again by the intent of the author with those lines, I will let them do some research and come to their own conclusions giving this to them as a topic:
Is Bradbury a biased product of his culture and time or was he a clever writer crafting all dialogue and character to enhance the mood and theme?
I didn't get it on the first read that day subbing, but I realize now that a writer would not just add in dialogue that did not have a purpose to the novel. My reason for advising its removal was that the students and myself did not initially see the purpose of the dialogue to the character, theme and mood.
Thanks again for the serious and sincere analysis and resources. We can all joke about editing advice as book burning but in reality, it takes a village to figure out some of the subtlest uses of dramatic irony by the world's great writers.
Thanks for taking my concerns seriously.
Peace & Light
Here's part of what troubles me, Keith. This line implies that you somehow "know" the author's attitude toward women because YOU have a particular sensitivity toward spanking (as though it were evil, violent, and/or sexist) and MANY of us disagree. So using your biased view, you judge the author's views. Bradbury's position on this point is actually pretty mainstream--that parents, in an effort to discipline thier kids--spank them.
By the way, I see NO sexism in this part of the work. Clarisse is the child who was spanked because the character is female. My parents spanked me and it had NOTHING to do with sexism or violence. If the character had been male, I'm pretty sure Bradbury would have had the kid spanked.
When a writer revises his own work, that's not censoring (depending, of course, on his/her motivation for the editing); but when someone else edits it, that's censorship--when it changes the meaning of the author's intent for political/religious/sociological or other reasons.
If you're concerned about the question of understanding, literature has an entire discipline, called literary criticism. The appropriate place to "correct" or "explain" these types of passages is not in changing the text of the work, but in discussing it (hopefully objectively and not shoving one's own biases down the reader's throat) in literary criticism. There is no need to revise the text of the work itself.
I'm deeply offended by the blatant call for censorship by the original poster, justified by political correctness, and this from an educator in our school system who should know better.
I'm with Scrooge on this one. I'll retire to Bedlam.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Carcosa,
This nearly mindless mind-troubled hair pulling traumatized reader's observations to the troubled and panic activity of a spanking needs to put less sugar on his cereal and turn off the Michael Jackson reports on TV. It's mind-messing.
With all due respect, Mr Walker, can you distinguish the difference between 'irony' and 'dramatic irony'?
Have you ever considered an alternative profession? The notion of your horrified students sends shivers down my spine.
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