Blog Hop: A Question of Beliefs

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Would you stop reading a book if an element of the plot strongly clashed with your personal beliefs, or would you continue reading until you finished the book?

That’s a really intriguing question, and one I don’t think I can answer with a simple yes/no!  I think it depends on how an idea is being presented.  Most stories will feature some character doing something I find morally wrong, but that’s kind of the point of villains.  If the intended hero is doing something I disagree with, does the book portray it as good or bad?  I don’t expect heroes to be perfect either, and sometimes it’s important to explore good people doing bad things.  But what does the author’s intent seem to be?  And if they’re glorifying something I find morally repugnant, than I probably would stop reading.

Sometimes I quit books because of a kind of low-level discomfort with characters’ choices or attitudes.  Say the protagonist is obnoxious, or nasty to the people around them (Catcher in the Rye, a book I should have quit, comes to mind), or cheerfully engaging in extramarital affairs, or what have you, and the book portrays this as a good way to be.  I’d quit that book, but I think I probably would frame it as disliking the characters because I just find them unpleasant to spend time with, rather than precisely a moral issue.

I quit books with abusive relationships portrayed as romantic (yes, I’m still looking at you, Abandon trilogy!)  Emotional dysfunction or controlling issues will usually make me quit, but physical or sexual abuse would have me out of a book a lot faster.

I probably would have quit The Night Bookmobile, if the major issue had come sooner–the heroine commits suicide and that sort of works out for her…?  I think that points to one reason I get very upset by certain moral issues in books more than others.  If the level of violence is a little high (to a point), I don’t generally think readers are going to take that as a model.  But modeling abusive relationships as romantic or affirming suicide–that’s a message readers could internalize, and that could cause real harm to someone, especially in books for younger target audiences.

Maybe that gets to the crux of my moral issues with books.  If a book promotes something contrary to my personal beliefs, I might ride along, or quit just because I’m not enjoying it.  If a book breaks my moral code that stories should deliver healthy, positive messages (or at least, not actively harmful ones!) then I’ll be a lot more outraged.

How do your beliefs play into whether you quit a book or not?  Have you dropped some for these reasons?

2 thoughts on “Blog Hop: A Question of Beliefs

  1. dianem57

    This hasn’t come up much for me, maybe because of the kinds of books I read. I did quit “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck for that reason. I just didn’t want to read further about characters whose moral choices I strongly disagreed with.

  2. Dennis

    A related question is: what do we make of books which depict attitudes we find objectionable, but put them into a historical context in which they would have been deemed acceptable? Examples: The Little House series, in which Laura’s family seems to see no moral issue in giving Native American lands to settlers. Gone With the Wind, in which the author, while not exactly approving of slavery, conveys a general attitude that it wasn’t so bad? The Tarzan series, in which blacks are portrayed as cannibals, buffoons, or at best noble savages? I believe we should not shy away from reading this type of book, as it gives us insight into a different mindset and helps us understand why people believed as they did in a different time and place.

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