The Banning of Huckleberry Finn

The Banning of Huckleberry Finn

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Since the Civil War, racism has been a very delicate issue with the American public. Some people have tried to transgress this issue, pretending that race no longer plays a significant role in our country, while other people still believe that there are serious racial dilemmas in the United States.

In the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain presents an adventurous story filled with deep meanings and controversial topics, two in particular being slavery and racism. In this novel, Twain describes a fictitious adventure that two main characters had while running away and traveling down the Mississippi river. The two characters, Huckleberry Finn and a slave named Jim, are running away from society. Huck learns important things about the harsh world he lives in, Huck learns that Blacks are no different than Whites and that society is wrong in the treatment of them. The Book has a very realistic view on the events that happened during that time period and the language used which is considered vulgar or improper in today's society. Despite the usage of the word "nigger" and the portrayal of an African American stereotype, Huck Finn should not be banned from high school reading lists.

Those that say that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is inappropriate to be read in schools are in turn saying that that portion of United States history should not be taught in the classroom. The novel shows how blacks were mistreated and how blacks are not thought of as even being capable of being intelligent. In the beginning of the novel (pg 7-8) Huck and his friend Tom Sawyer play a mean trick on Jim, they assume that Jim is really dumb and thought it would be funny. They took his hat and hung it in a tree over top Jim, who was asleep at the base of the tree. Jim was led to believe it was the work of witches. One other incident happened when Huck and Jim got separated in a fog. The morning that the fog cleared Huck led Jim to believe that he dreamt the events that took place during the fog (pg. 81-83). This depicts just small mistreatments and misjudgments of Blacks, these only being juvenile attacks on Black people. Twain did not write this novel to belittle the African American race; he just showed how they were treated.

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No one likes to neither look at the word "nigger" nor hear it used, we must accept that this word was considered appropriate language at one time. The novel should not be banned based on the strong language; the slang terms toward blacks were very common at the time of this novel. Also Twains dialect for Jim was not meant to offend anyone; he was not attacking the Black intelligence, it is merely showing us how some Blacks talked back then due to lack of a normal education. Twain is not racist by writing such things, he wanted to put you in that time period to get the full effect of what he wanted you to learn and enjoy. The word "nigger" means "black person" in the time period we are looking at, and it was not used to put down anyone it just described then. In the last chapter Tom is talking about how all the "niggers" in town should celebrated Jim's being free. Tom was a friend of Jim's and "nigger" is the way he said black people, because it was that common. In the book (page 100) Twain is talking about a black women stepping outside and talking to Mr. Silas; "Just then the nigger women steps onto the passage and says." Twain is only using language that was very common to the setting of the book. The novel may offend Blacks or Whites, but people need to understand it is not meant to be offensive and the book is part of our history.

Since its publication in 1885 the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been under a lot of scrutiny. It has been discriminated against since the start. The Concord Public Library committee found it "more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people (Huckleberry Finn Debated, 1884-2001)." However, Ernest Hemingway once said "all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.... All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since (Huckleberry Finn Debated, 1884-2001)." This is just evidence that the book has had great influences on the American society whether it be negative or positive.

Just because of the word "nigger" and the portrayal of the African American stereotype, the novel Huck Finn should not be banned from high school reading lists. By banning an important work in U.S. history, those schools are ignoring the racial sentiments of that time period just because the language in Huck Finn may not be appropriate. Twain wrote Huck Finn during the Reconstruction period in the south, at a time when most Americans wanted to forget all about slavery and its consequences. However, Twain set the time period of the novel prior to the Civil War when slavery was at its peak. The racist views he included in the novel reflected attitudes of many Southerners during that time. High school students are neither naïve nor dumb; they should be able to handle the contents of the novel. Hopefully learn from Twain's messages.

Huckleberry Finn Debated, 1884-2001, www.boondocksnet.com

Harry Potter, 'Huckleberry Finn' among controversial library books, CNN News report, 14 September 2000

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 1885

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