Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

To comprehend the U.S. one must try to understand the complexities of our racial politics. An exploration of race, attitudes, and civil rights is central to each of these novels. I include Huck Finn because the prejudices and ignorance satirized there in many ways still exist today.

Submission by Carolyn Saper

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  1. testUserAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT says:

    Sep 8, 2012

    Do the works of Mark Twain need a little twiakeng? Apparently NewSouth Books and Auburn professor Alan Gribben seem to think so. A new version combining The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and Adventures of Huck Finn’ coming out in February seeks to update the story by removing the n word, replacing it with ‘slave.’ Injun Joe is now an Indian. Striving for a less racist society is an honorable goal, but I am not convinced that this is how we will achieve it.In the past, books have been amended for a variety of reasons; there are children’s versions of most classics. Gerald L. Early, director of the Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis states, We change texts all the time, for instance, we make children’s versions of the Bible, Homer and Shakespeare. Twain’s dialogue can be hard to read, especially aloud and it can present particular difficulties for teachers. Gribben indicates that one reason for this altered version is to bring the classic back to the classroom. Schools have restricted or banned Huck for years due to language concerns. I have to admit that when reading the book aloud to my children, I found myself inserting alternate words when I just could not bring myself to give voice to n . Using this new text could provide a spring board for discussion in the classroom. Delicacy is required, and sensitivity to the particular audience a must, but expunging all unpleasantness, or discussions of racism from the classroom is not an appropriate response.The books follow the lives of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn during the mid 1800 s. Huck, a young man faced with the harsh reality of life (a deceased mother and an alcoholic father), slowly comes to realize that he and Jim, the runaway slave, have more in common than he thought possible. They both are attempting to escape difficulties and obtain a better life. As they travel down river, Huck gets to know Jim and he decides to help him instead of turning him in. Empathy leads to compassion and Huck slowly develops a new outlook on slavery and on life.Tweaking TwainAlthough NewSouth’s efforts do not rise to the level of censorship, literary changes that are undertaken to reflect cultural norms are usually misguided and frequently detrimental. As a society, we are diminished in a small way when attempts to cleanse the unsavory elements from literary works are undertaken. When he set pen to paper, Samuel Clemens (Twain) created authentic classics of American literature. The language is organic, fundamental and flawed; as are the characters. It is the human condition to err. Huck’s redemption lies in his ability to see true humanity in another, a spark of the divine.

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