Huck Finn: The Debate on Racism

Published in the late 1800’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has been a constant debate on whether or not schools should teach the novel. Many critics believe the novel portrays an inappropriate display of racism but others feel the novel is a work of art and should be kept alive in all school networks. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn set roughly in 1835-1845 gives the story of Huck Finn, a young boy and his friend Jim, a black slave who runs away from his owner Miss Watson.

In the novel Jim is displayed as unintelligent or dim-lighted which is one of many racial comments made throughout the book. Another controversy over why people think the book should be banned or not taught in schools is because Twain uses the “N” word toward African Americans a little over 200 times which makes some students feel uncomfortable in the classroom. Although some people do not want this novel taught in the classroom, Huckleberry Finn should be taught in a school setting under certain conditions because it teaches the characteristics of racism, reality and the American dream. Huckleberry Finn should be taught in classrooms under certain conditions because Mark Twain teaches about racism throughout the book. In Paula Leider’s article “Does Huck Finn Belong in My Classroom” Leider states, “My students have little experimental knowledge of what it means to be persecuted due to race” (Leider 2) which shows teaching Huckleberry Finn can teach students about race and the right way to treat students of a different race. Students need to be taught about the topic of racism so they can be sure they do not say anything that can hurt someone’s feelings.

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When teaching Huckleberry Finn in a classroom of twenty-four white students and one black student, the goal is to not make the one black student feel uncomfortable due to the over use of the “N” word. By focusing on the time period and explaining how far America has come in regards to prejudice behaviors, students are able to make comparisons and draw conclusions based on past actions. Censoring novels such as Huckleberry Finn, would take away the closest thing students have to being there. The overuse of the “N” word as in, “N*****s would come from miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any n****r in that country.”(Twain 5) depicts the everyday conversations heard at the time.

This sentence, like most sentences in the novel, uses the “N” word more than once through the sentence. Although many racial slurs are made, Twain did not mean any harm by them, for he grew up in the south and knew no different. Although people agree with teaching this novel to High school students there are the ones that oppose teaching the book because they feel it is inappropriate. Many African American parents whose child reads Huckleberry Finn do not approve of teaching the novel. In Allen Carey-Webb’s article “Racism and Huckleberry Finn: Censorship, Dialog, and Change” Carey Webb states, “African Americans have raised objections to Huckleberry Finn and its effect on their children.”(Carey- Webb 23) People who disagree with teaching Huckleberry Finn need to realize that the novel is reality.

Looking back to the time period this book was written, white people back then all owned slaves. Luckily our society today has changed to the better because our nation is no longer a slave owning country and this book enforces the history of who our ancestors were and teaches about how they treated the black people unfairly. Twain even shows Huck’s sensitive side toward African Americans when Huck says, “I wouldn’t done that one if I’d a knowed it would make him feel that way.” Twain does not mean what he says in the book as racist he simply knows no other language.