Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Why I Love Wednesdays: Banned Books
Why I Love Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Alexis at Reflections of a Bookaholic. Every Wednesday, she discusses a different literary topic. The topic this week is to share a banned book that you love.
Why I Love . . . Sophie's Choice by William Styron
Reasons why the book was challenged (found at ALA website): "Banned in South Africa in 1979. Returned to La Mirada High School library (CA) in 2002 after a complaint about its sexual content prompted the school to pull the award-winning novel about a tormented Holocaust survivor."
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
The narrator, Stingo, is a struggling writer (he's sort of Styron's persona) who meets a couple living in his building and ends up getting caught in the middle of their tumultuous relationship. I really enjoy books told from the voice of a narrator who is not the main focus of the novel (ex. The Great Gatsby). The reason why reading Sophie's Choice from Stingo's point of view makes the novel so appealing is because the reader finds herself caught up in the mystery of Sophie's character. Why is she in this relationship? Why does this beautiful, smart, kind woman subject herself to the abuse and humiliation of this mentally unstable man? (These may not be such pressing questions for someone who has seen the film, but I read this novel knowing nothing of the plot except what was on the book jacket. I didn't even know the surprise ending. So needless to say, I was furiously turning the pages trying to get more insight into Sophie's motivations.)
There is one highly disturbing scene that I'll never get out of my mind: Sophie is lying in the dirt in the middle of the woods after being hit by a drunk Nathan and Nathan tells her to open her mouth so he can urinate in it, and she does so without hesistation. That scene showed me just how broken Sophie was. She is completely tortured by her past and the choice she was forced to make, and it's heartbreaking. She has lost all respect for herself and believes she deserves nothing good out of life. She seeks out punishment, needing it in order to go on living.
The complexity of this story is amazing. I even found Nathan to be a sympathetic character at times; he was someone whose mental illness had stolen from him the incredible potential he had been born with and turned him into a monster.