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The Controversy Over Censorship In Huckleberry Finn Essay

Throughout the years, conflict with race has set the tone for the flowering and evolution of Americas history. In present day America, racial slurs are uncommon. They are used as a sign of discrimination in a way that is unfamiliar to the ear. Published in 1884, Mark Twain wrote one of the most powerful stories of all time, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which exhibits the intimate dynamic of racism in the time of great agony, injustice, and inequity for African Americans. The word ‘nigger’ appears 219 times throughout the story. (Hudson, 2011) This has provoked a great amount of conflict, and has escalated to the extent in which many schools are forbidding the book; erasing it from grade-school curricula due to the illiberality in context. Years have passed, and racism is now not accepted in many societies, as it was in the 19th century. We forget that Twain used his language to instrument the behavior of society. Language serves as a link to historical culture. Removing the word would remove the significance of why it was ever placed there. (Bouie 2011)

For years now, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been ceasing rapidly from school curricula because of the use of the word ‘nigger’. Instead of banning the book, the idea of changing the word from “nigger” to “slave” has been issued. Alan Gribben, an english professor at Auburn University, proposed this idea to the publisher in hopes that more schools could persist in using Mark Twain’s writing as an educational source and in trust that this addition would manage the growth of the roots of the book once again. Gribben once wrote, “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.” (Gribben, 2011) Substituting the word does nothing essential to the aspect of understanding our failures. Avoiding the fruitless actions of the past does not gain justice, awareness, and will not yield an era in which discrimination occurred. (Chabon, 2011)

Although the language in Huckleberry Finn is discriminatory towards African Americans, the actions of banning and substitution should not be made. America was not always the same way it is today, and that is something we, as Americans, have to respect and understand. There is no better way to connect to the story than without the tone and word choice while reading the unrevised edition of Huck Finn. This was a culture that was ugly and cruel. Pretending it never happened, by substituting the word ‘nigger’ for ‘slave’, cannot provide the full amount of wisdom and accurate knowledge of this generation. Earl Ofari Huchinson from The Grio states, “Critics are calling it censorship, a slap at freedom of speech, and a gross distortion of Twain’s intent… Twain’s goal was to show the ugliness an evilness of slavery and to do that he had to use the rawest racist language of his day.” (Huchinson, 2011) Twain was aware of the discerning words and selected them finely to portray this era of life.

The era of this story was based on a time that racial slurs were more acceptable and habitual. Slavery was a large part of society. Time was different. Language was raw. Twain used his words to show the immortality of society linked to slavery and to do this, he used the most vulgar language of this time. (Huchinson, 2011) He chose words that were essential to the intimacy of the story, and should not have been blamed for such language that was used more than a century ago.

Jennifer Crane explains for The Corner Observer, that Huckleberry Finn shows an accurate understanding of how far our society has come since the 1800’s. “Besides getting a history lesson, Huck teaches us life lessons. It shows how an innocent boy can break free from society’s wrongful thinking and finally think for himself. This act of individualism by Huck affects how people viewed race,” (Crane, 2011) she comments. Yet the decision to keep the book from the original is still up in the air. (Crane, 2011)

People may argue that the substitution is the best method to keep these books in grade school curriculum. (Kakutani, 2011) Starting on page six, the ‘n’ word begins to escalate and continue to be seen till the last chapter. This word is one that most people do not find comfortable saying, let alone reading. Changing the authors original work, even in the slightest, alters the intentions that were engaged. A new, restored edition of Huckleberry Finn will be released in mid-february by SouthNew books. Words will be eliminated that appear displeasing. Their main task is to develop a new impression of Huckleberry Finn that may gather a new group of individuals.

At a disparaging standpoint, altering a book’s motives, by removing or substituting a word, would completely diminish the motif Twain possessed. Alexandra Petri from The Atlantic wrote, “This is like changing War and Peace to Peace, because war is unpleasant to remember.” (Petri, 2011) Their mission, in my eyes, confuses me, because I do not comprehend the idea and reasoning around altering a story’s cultural presence to gather a larger crowd, when they do not get to experience the absolute, powerful experience that they otherwise would. Exchanging ‘nigger’ for ‘slave’ is unreasonable and holds a weight of culture and historical importance. Removing this curriculum in schools deprives children of famous, classic literature that has such great history and mark on society. (La Rosa, 2011) (restate thesis, intro)

Bouie, J. (2011). Taking the History out of ‘Huck Finn.’ The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Chabon, M. (2011). The Unspeakable, in Its Jammies. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Crane, J. (2011 February 8). There shouldn’t be a controversy over Huck. The Corning Observer. Retrieved from

Huchinson, E. (2011 January 5). Why the N-word should stay in ‘Huck Finn’. The Grio. Retrieved from

Kakutani, M. (2011, January 6). Light Out, Huck, They Still Want to Sivilize You. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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