Profanity in Literature

Today I want to discuss profanity in literature. The proverbial "bad word" that you come across in literature from writers like Bukowski, Hemingway, etc.

I was once confronted, a long time ago, for using profanity in a number of my writings. Just a very few number of my writings. The reader said: "Everything about you used to burst out into beauty until you said the "F" word and now you're just not beautiful anymore." Aside from that remark being very condescending and hurtful, it also came from a shallow place literature-wise. 

First of all, I'd like to say that I can count on my fingers the number of times that profanity has been used in any of my work. Secondly, I'd like to point out that profanity makes me laugh out loud. Like for real. "Bad words" make me laugh, and it always "lightens the atmosphere" for me. In any occasion, profanity has the power to make me laugh out loud. I really don't know why. Maybe it's just my perspective? I choose to giggle at words that offend others, maybe because they are just words and it's funny how others find the words offensive when they are not being used to harm or to assault or to attack anybody. Anything is offensive if it is used to hurt someone or to corrupt someone. Nothing should be offensive if it is not corrupting anyone or hurting someone. That's my take on the matter. We waste too much time being offended by small things, while truly offensive things are going on in the world such as poverty, famine, disease and etc.

Secondly, I'd like to point out how profanity can be so useful in the creation of literature depending on where and when it is used. The best user of profanity would have to be Charles Bukowski, in my opinion. The way he used it in his work, during his lifetime, is legend and he created epic pieces by the use of "bad words" at key places and key times in his poetry and other writings. Also, one of my favourite poems that I read before I became a writer (back when I was just a teenager) was a poem by Hemingway called "The Age Demanded." 

The Age Demanded


The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

And so as you can see here, that moment of "gist" in this poem is expressed immaculately and precisely, by the use of the word "shit" and somehow, it doesn't make me laugh in this poem. Rather, it makes the soul of the whole poem take root within me. If not for the use of the word "shit" here, it just wouldn't have hit home.


  1. I have to agree. Profanity often allows us the freedom to express rage, and sometimes rage needs to be released. How strange a world we live in that ongoing wars, genocide, and brutal governments crushing dissent don't bother people. Using profanities to shame, abuse, belittle or harm another is wrong. Using profanity in literature is honest.

  2. Yes its true the people never stop to move one to another place really its great sign to all about banquets.


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