Racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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Famed novelist Ernest Hemingway believed that “[a]ll modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn…the best book we’ve had.” The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic American tale with all the essentials of a story that feeds our imagination. On the surface, the novel appears to be a very unpretentious tale of adventure, and self-discovery that has earned a place on every high school required reading list. However, if the story is closely examined, it takes on darker undertones of a racist culture replete with derogatory language and glimpses into the ugliness and turmoil that followed in the years immediately after the Civil War, and that still exist today. Controversial and racist are two words commonly used to describe Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is considered to be the quintessential American novel, yet it remains in the middle of a debate over whether or not it should be taught in schools.

The first point of the novel from which most controversy stems is the inclusion of the word “nigger”. The inclusion of the word in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is unnecessary and offensive. Initially, critics of the novel disliked Twain’s use of vernacular because it was “vulgar and unpleasant”, disturbing genteel white Americans, not because the word “nigger” was found to be offensive (Kaye 3). Fostering an uncomfortable atmosphere for black students, critics believe that primarily white educators allow the novel because they prefer Twain’s depiction of subservient blacks (Kaye 4). Due to the prolific use of the “n-word” throughout the novel, the NAACP believes the story causes damage to black students’ self-esteem (Powell 3). Critics argue Twain’s use of a...

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