This week I am finding it difficult to stomach the racism in 'The Sign of Four' by Arthur Conan Doyle. Whilst I wouldn't want to ban it, I would draw the line at using it as a text on an examination syllabus, Mr Gove. Yes, we can say 'here is an example of how Victorians thought about other races' , but a lot of that will go over students' heads and they'll only remember that Tonga was the real baddie - 'the black cannibal...[who] would eat raw meat and dance his war-dance'
This is the idea that the limits of our language define the limits of our thoughts. George Orwell said, in his essay on Politics and the English Language, that 'the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts' which I'm not sure is really true. It's like David Starkey saying that the 2010 riots were partially a result of young people speaking in a slovenly way. Steven Pinker dismisses the idea in his book 'The Stuff of Thought' saying that
Doesn't matter how many times I teach this novel; I still love it. Every word adds something to the themes, plot, characters or mood, like this description of Jack and Ralph: 'They walked along, two continents of experience and feeling, unable to communicate.' And this from Piggy: 'I bet it's gone tea-time.'