Sunday, January 9, 2011

Huckleberry Finn: New and Improved?

Apparently, Mark Twain's classic, Huckleberry Finn, is considered too offensive by some and needs to be edited to take out the racial slurs that are used extensively to sugar coat and sanitize for everyone's benefit. I understand that there are some that think that this will make the novel easier for some to read, and therefore be more accessible, but I think it dumbs down the message.

The book is the product of the time it was written: just after the Civil War when there was rampant racism, lynchings, and segregation. Even though the language used is offensive and racist, the intent of the book is to refute racism, not promote it. The larger message of the story is that Huck didn't just judge Jim by the racist stereotypes that were typical of the time, but saw him as a regular person. To edit this text is to gloss over something horrible that did happen in the United States' past and act like it didn't exist because it makes people uncomfortable. I think if readers can't see past a few offensive words to see the greater meaning of this classic work of literature, then they aren't ready to read it. Plus, this isn't a children's book, as it is marketed as sometimes.

I know that there are many other editions that have the work in its entirety; and it's in the public domain so technically anyone could do anything to it if they so chose. However, I think that people need to stand up for the integrity of the literature. I personally won't be buying this edited edition and I hope this won't be a financially successful endeavor for that publisher.

What do you guys think? Is it just a more modern updating of the text or do you consider it censorship?


Mrs. DeRaps said...

And, when I read it, I can't help but think that Twain is actually making fun of racists...Tom Sawyer feels over-the-top cruel to me and Huck's wavering back and forth about what to do with Jim seems like a person struggling between upholding the law/ expectations of society or staying true to what he knows about Jim/ his moral compass.

When I teach this book, we read with the "Is Twain a racist" question in mind. Some students think yes, some think no. I think that he is a master of language and showed how stupid and immoral society of the time was in having such horrid attitudes toward slaves.

Great discussion...

Lindsay :) said...

I was so upset when I found out about this. My thinking was it's a book with words from that time period. Why is there a problem with that? Changing the word to slave won't have the same effect because it's not how they spoke. And to me, changing those words is like ignoring wars, like rewriting history.

And I think it is censorship. They are deleting a word and replacing it with a nicer version.

I too agree that if they can't accept that that was how it was during that time, then they probably aren't ready to read it. I also hope it fails financially.

Lindsay :) said...

Btw, I gave you an award:

E. Van Lowe said...

I don't want to belabor the discussion. But the guy was only trying to make the book acceptible to more schools. Many schools ban it because of the N word. The guys is a Mark Twain scholar who wanted to make Twain's work available to more kids. I don't see anything wrong with that. He's not trying to pretend racism didn't exist. Twain's works will always be available to us purists in their original forms.

That's how I see it.


Kelly aka yllektra(I Work For Books) said...

I think I always prefer to read books in their original form the way the author intended us to read them, you know?

Kelly aka yllektra(I Work For Books) said...

I think I always prefer to read books in their original form the way the author intended us to read them, you know?