Deliverance BY Dickey, James

March 24, 1998|By KRISTIN L. NELSON; Courant Correspondent

WALLINGFORD — Despite a complaint from a student's parents, the novel ``Deliverance'' will not be taken off the reading list for a required senior-level English course, school officials say.

``If they don't like the decision they are welcome to appeal it,'' Sean Meehan, principal of Mark T. Sheehan High School, said Monday, adding that this was the first complaint about a book he has received in his 10 years at the school.

Parents Eileen and Dennis Allard told the school board last week that the book was pornographic and had no place in the curriculum.

Since it was first published in 1970, James Dickey's ``Deliverance'' has been widely discussed for its classic themes of good vs. evil and man vs. nature, said Wallingford Public Library co-director Leslie Scherer. It chronicles the story of four businessmen on a Georgia canoe trip who end up fighting for their lives.

In 1972, the novel was made into a feature film starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, and the movie was an Academy Award nominee.

The book has been banned in some classrooms and libraries across the nation because some passages are considered obscene and pornographic. One of the most controversial passages is a graphic depiction of a homosexual rape.

``Originally it received a lot of criticism because Dickey had been known as a poet, but it has risen in stature over the last [decades],'' Scherer said Monday. The Wallingford library's copy is missing, but the movie version is checked out regularly, she said.

Meehan met with the head of the English department and senior English teachers last week to decide whether to ban the book, which has been in use for more than 10 years.

``The passages that you object to, although they are indeed in the novel, are individual sentences that are taken out of context,'' Meehan said in a March 19 letter to the Allards. ``When this is done, the language or scene is magnified. The passages you object to are not the focal point of class discussion. The emphasis is on conflict, character, symbolism and the quest. Objections could be found to almost any book when passages are pulled out of context. The total picture should be looked at.''

Sheehan English Department Chairwoman Sue Mitoraj said, ``One way to deal with a book with sensitive material is to address it up front with students.''

Mitoraj, who doesn't currently teach the book, said another approach is to allow a student to read another book.

Vincent Mustaro, senior staff associate for policy service with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, stressed the importance of putting into place written procedures for coping with such issues.

``It's not uncommon for this kind of thing to happen, and it's important not to let one person determine what the district teaches,'' he said. Most school districts do have policies in place, he added.