I found this paragraph on a page called The Censorship Connection written by Nancy McCracken that described objections to the animal scene.
The parents read this scene as a rape. It's hard not to read it that way since it is presented from an anthropomorphic point of view, as when Mr. Tanner tells Rob that Pinky's resistance is "All part of courting ... Samson just got his face slapped. That's all." Parents read about the mating through young Rob's eyes:
[Samson] was bigger and stronger and ten times meaner than Pinky. So he had his way with her. All the time he was breeding into her, she squealed like her throat had been cut. Every breath. She just squealed like crying, and wouldn't stop.
Not even after Samson had enough of her and got down off her, did she stop her whining. Not even then. Her rump was bruised and there was blood running down her hind leg. (p. 121, Dell, 1972) Mr. Tanner completes the personification when he tells Rob that Pinky "weren't nought but a maiden before this morning. Just a little girl, she was" (p. 121).
The teachers at the meeting, other parents, and one seventh grader who had come to speak for the book proclaimed that the students didn't see that scene as very important.
One teacher reported that when she had surveyed her students several months after they'd read the book, no one mentioned the mating scene.
The objecting parents then offered an argument that is hard to listen to, but important for anti-censors to hear. This was the argument: so long as the girls read the scene, even if they didn't remember it, the scene had entered their minds along with the rest of the book, and it might, like a single dose of L.S.D., come back to haunt them in future flashbacks. Two quick responses came to mind. The first was that even if alleged "L.S.D. effect" occurred, the result would be nothing so much as sympathy for creatures caged and hurt -- which would be healthy, wouldn't it? The second quick response was that literature isn't like L.S.D. -- a single dose of which can alter your brain and damage your ability to create healthy offspring; literature is mediated experience, read and discussed and put to good use by teachers and students in a classroom.
Eventually, the school adopted the policy of presenting a list of reading materials to parents at the beginning of the school year, allowing them to substitute another book, rather than restricting reading material for all students.
Any kid who grew up on a farm probably has seen scenes like this in real life - all through human history. Animals on a farm don't hold back because there is a 13 year old nearby. I did have a little cry when I read this book- it's a powerful, gritty, realistic story about growing up, based on the author's life.
I don't think he should have altered the harsh realities of life during the Depression to make it more comfortable.
March 17, 2010
This book poses a special problem though- the Shaker element. Shakers never lived in Vermont and do not have children or get married. But if something in a story is false, is it okay to say 'no kid can read this', or is it better to take the opportunity to educate?
Reading fiction is not supposed to be a passive experience & you don't just do it for entertainment. Critical reading helps develop critical thinking.