Friday, January 07, 2011

Don't censor Huck Finn. Period.

There's yet another hubbub about the use of the "N" word in Huckleberry Finn. I haven't seen the writing of the original person who wants to excise the offending word from the text, but I have seen opinion pieces written about the suggestion.

Here's my opinion piece. NO. Leave the text alone.

Sometimes I feel like the only person who realizes that WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LIKE IT when we see that aspect of society represented in the book. We're SUPPOSED to find it disturbing and offensive to see a human being regarded and treated as a piece of property. Our brain is supposed to think, "Wait, what?" and we're supposed to see the glaring contradiction between people who are regarded as, and believe themselves to be, Good and Upright Christians, who give a slave girl only one dress to wear and keep a man chained up out back because they think he's someone's runaway slave, aka piece of property.

And anyone who fails to realize that the only adult male who is actually admirable and noble in the entire book is Jim, the runaway slave. The other men, all white men, are either evil beyond redemption or so stupid it's a wonder they're still in the gene pool.

The N word was not necessarily regarded as offensive when Twain wrote it. But a) it IS an accurate representation of people's language and attitudes at the time, and b) what IS offensive, and what we are supposed to internally rail against, is how so-called polite society is treating Jim, the slave girl, and all slaves. We are *not supposed to like what we see*. It's just that instead of writing a scathing treatise on the flaws of that culture, Mark Twain opted to write them into a story and let the reader pause to reflect on how unjust and terrible those things are.

So LEAVE THE BOOK ALONE. Let the reader receive the full impact of how awful the things are that the author chose to represent in his book. Don't ever dilute the message, lest we fail to learn from the past and feel no need to vow, "Never again!"

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