Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grab Your Erasers, Kids.

Because if you don't like the way a classic literary art work is written, you can just re-write it. Literally.
 Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of "all modern American literature." Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation's most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: "nigger." - Publishers Weekly
I don't like or condone the use of the word 'Nigger' out of context as a derogatory racial slur in life. But in literary work like Huckleberry Finn its a different story. However these two 'scholars' seem to disagree with me. And have decided to grab their pencil and eraser and go to work editing the source of "all modern American literature." Unacceptable. I say.
...two scholars are editing Mark Twain's classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to eliminate uses of the "N" word and replace it with "slave," Publishers Weekly writes.

As PW says, "for decades, [Huckleberry Finn] has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation's most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word."

One of the scholars, Alan Gribben of Auburn University, tells PW that "this is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind. ... Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century." NPR: New Edition Of 'Huckleberry Finn' Will Eliminate Offensive Words 

Mark Twain defines a Classic as "a book which people praise and don't read." Well I've read it, and it needs to be left alone. 

If anything needs to be changed it's the schools curriculum. Do they really believe that keeping things from children is a good way to educate them? Hiding things and keeping kids away from information will only lead to misunderstanding and actual inappropriate use of that information when they do get a hold of it. You should use this opportunity to explain it the appropriate controlled way.

There are countless comments on various accounts of this story that say the book taught them about how the word 'nigger' was innapropriate and not to be taken lightly.

"Learning the 'N' word from Huckleberry Finn taught me not to use it because it was improper, so.. why the change?" - Unknown Tweeter.
This is ridiculous, no matter how you look at it. It's no better than when Kirk Cameron and his buddy Ray Comfort decided to 'add a few pages' to The Origin Of Species. There is no good justification for the editing of any literary work. I wouldn't even dream of editing the bible. Even as an atheist. I don't like it or its message, but it's not mine to screw with. 

What do you think? The two have said they hope to get the book in more hands this way. Is that an acceptable excuse?

The Revised copy is set to be published sometime in February.


  1. I heartily agree. Thank you for expressing this so succinctly.

  2. Jesus where does it end? How about if I were to erase all of the references to women that were painted in a not-so-nice manor from Shakespeare because it offended someone. Maybe we should start blocking all offensive language from the internet, which would be everything sine everyone is offended by something.

    The whole point of the first amendment is to have free speech even when someone disagrees with it.

  3. Thank you for your compliment. Glad you agree this is stupid.

  4. "Do they really believe that keeping things from children is a good way to educate them?"

  5. What really bothers me about doing this to Huckleberry Finn is that people who point to this book as racist haven't read the book (or if they read it, they don't understand it.) The main theme of the book is Huck's gradual realization that Jim is human being like himself & not just a "n*****r".

  6. Exactly my point Anonymous. It's a teaching of understanding that could help kids learn to be tolerant. Unlike Bethany, who appears to believe a lack of knowledge is the best understanding.

  7. When Huck and Jim first take off, Huck doesn't see his fellow traveler as a full human. But as he sees the pain that Jim expresses over leaving his children behind, he starts to see just how human this "nigger" is. The word "nigger" is used to dehumanize this man. That's the function of racial epithets.

    To omit this word is to miss the point of the book and how far Huck has changed in his view of Jim. His whole view of the way things are has been turned upside down.

    Huck has been taught that helping a slave escape is a mortal sin and the punishment is hell. At the end, when he realizes that he needs to help Jim escape, he says, "I'll go to hell, then." If you remove the terrible way that Huck perceives blacks when the book starts, then the true magnitude of Huck's statement gets watered down in a torrent of political correctness.

    If they want to do anything to Huckleberry Finn, then maybe it should be an intro that says how Mark Twain had a gift for vernacular and writing the way people of the time really spoke. This was an innovation from earlier American writers whose dialog was written like British books. That's what made Twain great.

    BTW, Mark, re-read what Bethany wrote. She was saying that these people really believe that keeping kids in the dark was the best way to teach them. She certainly doesn't (assuming it's the Bethany we all know and love). :)

  8. I certainly do apologize if that was her intention. I missed it, honest mistake.

    Jim that was very well said. I never even took into consideration the huge impact it had on the story as a whole. Thank you for the commentary that I failed to include.

  9. My thoughts keep going to 1984 when I read about this topic. Winston hunched over rewriting news articles to suit what Big Brother thinks is best for the people to know.

    That word is the most offensive one I know. I hate it and everything it stands for. Which is why Twain's work MUST remain untouched. We need to see the ugliness of it, the senselessness of it.

    This is a dangerous, dangerous precedent. We can't stand by and let people manipulate the past to suit their crazy agendas.

  10. This whole affair has driven me to re-read this book and I found this explanation on the second page.

    "In this book, a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary "Pike County" dialect; and four modified varieties of this last. The shadings have not been done in haphazard fashion or by guesswork; but painstakingly and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.

    I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding."

    Twain selected the words he thought were necessary. His great breakthrough was that he was the first genuinely American author. Before he published, American authors wrote like their British counterparts. He was the first to adopt American dialects and idiomatic speech.

    How dare these blue noses think they know better how to present this work.