Removing Words: Huckleberry Finn

I am sure a lot of you have heard about the removal of the “n” word from a new edition of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.  There are a lot of arguments both for and against the removal.  The best one for the removal seems to be that it would allow kids to read the book that wouldn’t otherwise, because of schools banning it or parents not giving permission.

I pretty much think this whole issue is ridiculous.  The fact is that the use of the “n” word is accurate for the time.  It is not Mark Twain bashing African Americans or being racist.   It is him using the vernacular that Finn would have used.  Getting rid of it is ignoring a huge part of history.  That time period was overwhelmingly racist. You can’t ignore slavery, racism, segregation or anything like that.  That it makes people uncomfortable is, in my mind, all the more reason to leave it in.  If you do not confront the parts of our history that make us uncomfortable then we can not learn from them.

I remember reading that book out loud in the 7th or 8th grade.  None of us were comfortable with the word.  You know what we did?  We didn’t say it!  We knew it was there.  We knew what it meant and why it was not ok to use.  We learned about racism and how absurd it is.  The teacher even explained why it was bad, just in case we didn’t understand!  It was an excellent learning opportunity.

It is ridiculous to get rid of the word and it is ridiculous to ban the book in the first place.  When books are banned I often wonder if people even read the books.  I remember when a school tried to ban “Looking for Alaska” by John Green for being pornographic.  Anyone who had actually read the “porn” scene with any attempt at a fair reading would realize the scene was only sexual in that it was technically a sex act.  One poorly performed, and as the author said himself, an attempt to highlight the intimacy gained by other means.  My advice is to really read a book, not just skim for quotes and words to ignite people, before you try to ban it.

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About Tori

I am a graduate student working on my masters in Women and Gender studies. My masters thesis is on the gender nonconformity and ambiguity in modern film.
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One Response to Removing Words: Huckleberry Finn

  1. Sita says:

    I agree. I’m not a fan of the “n” word, by any stretch of the imagination, and can’t say it to save my soul. But it’s appropriate in this work because of the era and the racial turbulence expressed. If such books like this make people think, and realize how different the world was in comparison to now, then all the better. I think today too many people capitulate to being politically correct and not wanting to step on anyone else’s feelings rather than speak the truth, or talk about uncomfortable truths that are present in our history and our present.

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