Huckleberry Finn in High Schools
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Huckleberry Finn in High Schools
High Schools in the United States should not ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This book is one of the most important components of American literature in our libraries today, it throws the reader into a time when slavery was lawful and accepted, and gives the reader a new perspective on slavery in general. Until civil rights groups can come up with a better argument than the word “nigger” creating a “hostile work environment”(Zwick) it should not be taken off the required reading list of any High School in the country.
Every one hundred years dialects change and what is considered “politically correct”, or socially acceptable, changes. “David Bradley argues that ‘if we'd eradicated the problem of racism in our society, Huckleberry Finn would be the easiest book in the world to teach’” (Zwick, Jim. “Should Huckleberry Finn Be Banned?”). If we, as a nation, make it a point to rule out all books that could possibly offend students, then every hundred years or so our library of American Literature will be completely different. Even today, modern day authors use vulgar language, lurid sexual content, and racial slurs to get their point across. If The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is taken off of required reading lists across the country, then that could create a never-ending cycle of books being taken off of school shelves every time words and ideas become unacceptable. If this is the way that American society is turning then something must be done, and the Superintendents, Deans, and Principals of every High School around the country must take it upon themselves to do it because the students will not.
The people who are trying to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are only trying to block out a part of American history that they would just as soon be forgotten, but every part of American history needs to be dealt with and accepted by everyone at a young age. Trying to shield students from any important part of history is a crime within itself. Hannibal, Missouri is a prime example of this type of crime. Every year they have a citywide celebration of Mark Twain, but they do not celebrate The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson nor do they teach it in their schools. Best stated by Shelly Fisher Fishkin, the theater company in Hannibal “was upholding a long American tradition of making slavery and its legacy and blacks themselves invisible”(Zwick, Jim.
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“Should Huckleberry Finn Be Banned?”). This just shows how foolish many parts of America can be; they embrace him and call him a genius in one aspect, but they conveniently don’t seem to notice his genius in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because they are too distracted by the language and actions of Huckleberry Finn himself.
Just because a book has some offensive content is not enough of a reason to ban a book, the general value of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn greatly overshadows any offensive language it may contain. It shows how the American public thought back then, their morals, and their way of life. It was simply they way they were brought up. In Chapter 32 of Huckleberry Finn Aunt Sally asks if anyone was hurt in a steamboat accident, Huck replies, "No'm. Killed a nigger”(Twain 167). The subject is then closed because no “people” were harmed, and in their minds, nobody was. That is something that cannot be expressed in a textbook or a teacher with the same degree of authenticity. The book immerses the student in a time where slavery was accepted. Teachers taught it, pastors preached it, mayors practiced it, and children saw absolutely nothing wrong with it because that is how they had been brought up. Huckleberry, however, was not raised “proper” and so had an almost completely clean head about the subject “The Widow Douglas, she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time” (Twain 1). He saw Jim as a person and was even willing to go to hell to protect him. Just his use of the word “nigger” did not make him a bad person; it was exactly the way people talked back in that period of time. The book tries to show that black people were just as human as white people and was probably the most blatant anti-slavery book of the time, “many scholars consider it a staunchly antiracist novel”(Zwick, Jim. “Should Huckleberry Finn Be Banned?”). If only that idea was appreciated today, the book would come across as a classic instead of a source of debate.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an avid anti-slavery novel, and despite flawed criticism from close-minded individuals, is one of the finest windows into a dark period of history that we all must deal with. One will not completely understand the way of life when slavery was accepted until they have read an entirely unbiased and uncensored book written during that time and dealing with the topic of slavery.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.
Zwick, Jim. “Banned Books and American Culture”. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Banned Book. 2 February 2001. .
Zwick, Jim. “Should Huckleberry Finn Be Banned?”. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: A Banned Book. 2 February 2001.
Why The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn Should Not Be Banned
The decision to ban the novel Huckleberry Finn from classrooms and libraries has been an ongoing controversy. The presence of the 'n word' and the treatment towards Jim, and other blacks in general, has made many readers uncomfortable. Despite this fact, Huckleberry Finn has been and remains a classic read. I do not believe the novel should be banned or sanitized because it is a part of American history whether it is good or bad, also we have no right to change someone's writing simply because we do not like how it is written, Mark Twain's writing should not be penalized because of the ideals of today.
Sanitizing Huckleberry Finn would be ignoring America's past and history. Revising the original version of the book is not staying true to the period in which Twain was writing. The language of the book depicts America's past(Rawls 1). The language used is appropriate for this specific time period. People would not have referred to slaves or African Americans in any other way. Altering Huckleberry Finn and changing the racial slurs would make the novel lean towards a more fictional direction.
Erasing racial labels does not erase race or racism. Wanting the world to be less racist does not give anyone the right to change someone writing. Being less racist would mean that the world could recognize words and their meanings as a sign of how much we have evolved(Dawkins 1). It is wrong to ignore the past simply because we don't know how to explain it. A large part of moving forward in the world depends on addressing problems and difficult situations. People have been reading "Huck Finn" and "Tom Sawyer for over a century and it has not stopped us from evolving and moving past slavery and racism for the most part. Why should we all of a sudden change Twain's book now.
Race is still an issue in America and a high school literature class discussion is the only place where a large proportion of students can learn about it along with learning how to talk about it(Bates 1). Huck Finn is a great way for young people to learn and understand their history along with being a wonderful read. If language is such a major issue then schools would have to void basically all historical novels worth reading.
It is important to remember that Mark Twain was not racist. If he had been, it still does not give any person the right to change or ban what he has said for their own pleasure. "The...
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