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Stephen King’s “Rage” should never have gone out of publication. (Op-Ed)

One of the most successful authors of all time, Stephen King, is happy that his horror novel Rage has been pulled from shelves and will never be printed again. Rage was published by King under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. Originally titled Getting It On, the psychological thriller was published in 1977. The story follows a young high school boy, Charlie Decker, whose violent behavior in school led to his expulsion. However, Charlie obtains a gun and shoots his algebra teacher, taking control of the room and holding his classmates hostage.

On December 1st, 1977, 14-year-old Michael Carneal killed three students and injured five when he brought a shotgun and rifle into school. It was later discovered that he had a copy of Rage in his locker. King asked his publisher to pull the novel, as he did not want it to inspire more tragedies. While this conscious thinking is wonderful, it’s deeply upsetting for members of the literary community who value divisive, intense novels that truly make us think. Collectors seek out the novel but face high prices to purchase a vintage copy.

While children with mental health issues and a propensity for violence should be barred from reading the novel, I do not believe in removing a book from publication altogether. There are many novels with darker themes that are beloved, widely read, and classics. Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, which ends in suicide, has not been removed from print and is considered a wonderful piece of literature. King’s novel IT features a graphic group sex scene between minors, and it is still in bookstores across the world.

I can imagine the strain an author faces when one of their books seemingly inspires someone to commit a grave act of violence, but it is never the author’s fault. J.D. Salinger’s famous novel The Catcher in the Rye is well-known to be a book idolized by Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon. Yet, the novel is a frequent part of high school curriculums.

The removal of Rage from print did not stop school shootings, but it did prevent readers from engaging with a unique piece of literature. As a responsible reader, I feel disappointed that I cannot complete my King collection. We cannot remove books from print when they inadvertently inspire violence — we do not censor film in this way.


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