Monday, August 15, 2011

School Board Removes Sherlock Holmes Novel From List.

The story was surely to be of interest to newspaper writers and editors ever on the look out for the censorship of books by libraries and school boards.
The headlines: Albemarle removes Sherlock Holmes book from reading list and School board removes Sherlock Holmes novel as derogatory to Mormons.

From The Daily Progress,
"The Albemarle County School Board voted Thursday night to remove Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” from sixth-grade reading lists. A parent of a Henley Middle School student originally challenged the book in May on the grounds that it is derogatory toward Mormons."

The book, “A Study in Scarlet” had been used to introduce Sherlock Holmes and the mystery genre in general to the 6th grade class.

The USAToday article published an excerpt from the novel, which could, they assumed, be construed as offensive to Mormons.

"(John Ferrier) had always determined, deep down in his resolute heart, that nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace. Whatever he might think of the Mormon doctrines, upon that one point he was inflexible. He had to seal his mouth on the subject, however, for to express an unorthodox opinion was a dangerous matter in those days in the Land of the Saints."

I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for many years, though mainly from TV and movie adaptations of the books. I had read some of the short stories in my youth, but I can't recall ever having read “A Study in Scarlet”. The recent BBC release, "A Study In Pink" was adapted from the book - however loosely - and there was, as I recall, no mention of the LDS in that version. From the excerpt in USAToday, I couldn't say for certain if, over all, the book was anti-Mormon. I imagined how I'd react if the quote had been ".......nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Roman Catholic. Such marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace." Would I find that particularly offensive?

Not necessarily. I would have to take the quote in the context that it was originally written.

Going to ( where else?) Project Gutenberg, I downloaded a copy for my Kindle.

Upon coming to Part II of the story, which takes place in Utah, I had no problem at all seeing how the book would be offensive to Mormons. Conan Doyle's portrayal of Brigham Young is outrageous, to say the least.

In spite of it's anti-Mormon elements, the book is never the less a masterpiece. I agree, however with the Albemarle County school board's decision that the novel is not age-appropriate for sixth-graders.

The comments left on the Daily Progress story follow a common thread. Most view the school board's decision as political correctness run amok. I suspect most of those leaving comments haven't read the novel. Of course, jumping to conclusions isn't a new sport.

1 comment:

Puff the Magic Dragon said...

We don't generally find derogatory comments about marrying catholics offensive because prejudice against catholics is the last bastian of bigotry still legally permitted.

The Crown of England cannot go to a catholic or one married to a catholic. The Law does NOT state that the monarch and spouse must be Anglican, but only that they may NOT be Catholic.

Since the law is prohibitive, what is not prohibited may be allowed, so legally, a monarch of England could be muslim, wiccan, or even a satanist and still not lose the crown.

Smell of Catholicism and lose your place in the queue.