How to read authors of earlier times who expressed views or created characters that we find repugnant today

Why Evolution Is True

There has been a lot of debate about how—or whether—to read authors whose views (or language) may not comport with today’s mores. Morality evolves, usually for the better, leaving older books bearing attitudes or characters that we find repugnant.

The usual result is to either denigrate or ban these books, and such opprobrium has involved works like Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Slaughterhouse-Five, and even The Color Purple. I’m not even mentioning the many books that are deemed verboten by various religions, such as The Satanic Verses. Go to the American Library Association’s Frequently Challenged Books webpage for a comprehensive list.

How do we deal with these books? Do we remove them from libraries, as Confederate statues are removed from campuses? Do we cease teaching them in classrooms—something that’s now happening with To Kill a Mockingbird? Or do we just decry them as…

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