Huckleberry Finn: An Educational and Emotional Stimulant

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a carefully crafted novel by the prominentwriter, Mark Twain, upholds its place as one of the most controversial books in American history. Twain tells the tale of a rebellious boy’s adventure, after he escapes from the “sivile” life that once captivated him. However, during his riveting journey down the Mississippi River, young Huckleberry is confronted by a runaway slave, named Jim, who he must protect carefully, or face the grave consequences. During the escapees’ expedition, they are antagonized with the severe racism and social corruption of the Southern United States prior to the Civil War. Furthermore, the unfavorable aspects of southern society shown in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, imitate the honest life in the south, during the mid-1840s. In response to the written words of history’s mistakes, critics argue that the novel should be banished from schools around the world, until a “cleansed and appropriate,” republished version is available for teaching. While some school districts might render the pure version of the novel offensive, it’s crucial to realize that Huckleberry Finn is believed to be “the greatest novel ever written” (Mencken), and literature of that caliber cannot be altered. Although the story is brutally racist, it’s also a precise depiction of previous Southern lifestyle; these parts of our history must be preserved for the wisdom of future humans. In spite of the everlasting debate, which comprises this novel, it’s evident that Huckleberry Finn should always remain an authentic American classic that teaches us the racial inimicalness of our country’s history.

When The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was released in 1885, a recurrent criticism was that the book was poorly written and contained unnecessary, profuse usage of the n-word; nonetheless, Mark Twain made it clear that he was always aware of his decisions and that every word he wrote held a tremendous purpose. When Huckleberry Finn was first exposed to the racist, opinionated South, critics couldn’t find the sole resolve behind the book. Because of the racial tension that prospered in this point in history, many failed to uncover the true meaning of the novel, the struggle of racism and respect to blacks in the South, before the Civil War. For this reason, Huckleberry Finn was thought to be “trash only suitable for the slums” (Concord Library). When looked at from a racist perspective, the book appears pointless and meaningless. Therefore, the book was looked down upon as a “grotesque” excuse for literature. While the story of Huckleberry takes place in the 1840s, the same discriminating customs still polluted society greatly during the 1880s, when it was published. Subsequently, this shows the “praise of the style in which the book has been published. It is plentifully illustrated with engravings of no mean skill, and is well printed in fine, clear type” (Life Reviews Huck). With the constant complaints and criticism that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn received when it came out, many members of society thought it would be best to remove the book from the Southern culture. The negativity surrounding this novel was still primarily focused on the poor quality in which it was written. The novel especially sickened one particular group:

In March 1885, the Library Committee in Concord, Massachusetts, reached a decision, Mark Twain’s new book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn–would be banned from the town’s public library. The committee was appalled by the author’s use of bad grammar and rough language. One member said the whole book is of a class that is more profitable for the slums than it is for respectable people, and it is trash of the veriest sort. (Bilyeu)

The Concord Library Committee was one of Huckleberry Finn’s greatest enemies when it first came out. This group of critics opposed the story in every way for it’s terrible structure and language. Although the novel was judged austerely when it first emerged for its lack of“skill” and “poor language,” many early readers failed to grasp Twain’s main purpose in the novel. Contrary to fights for the removal of Huckleberry Finn upon its publication, there was an equal fight for why the book should remain in society when it came out in 1885. What the uneducated reader doesn’t know is that Mark Twain is a very crafty writer. Consequently, “he prefaces The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with a brief notice, warning persons in search of a moral, motive or plot that they are liable to be prosecuted, banished or shot. This is a nice little artifice to scare off the critics” (Life Reviews Huck). Twain has complete intentions for the book to be shot down and rebelled against for it’s exclusivity towards common literature at the time; however, he was a risk taker, and he had a significant purpose. The real theme of Huckleberry Finn, the racial instability of the South, was incredibly hard for a racist white man in 1885 to comprehend. Furthermore, the story was strictly written to counteract most of the people that read it, who were the prejudice Southerners. In addition, the so-called “poor language” in the book, is actually the honest portrayal of Southern dialect, which must be captured for our country’s history. Twain also includes an except at the start of the book, which states that there are no racist portrayals derived from his own point of view, but from the view of a standard pre-Civil War Southerner. Many complaints arise from the fact that Twain uses the n-word frequently, “yet Twain was particular about his words. His letter in 1888 about the right word and the almost right one was the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning” (Rawls). Some readers of this novel can appreciate the true meaning of Twain’s words and will always stand by the book’s side to keep it in American literature. Whether the reader is a supporter or a dissident of Huckleberry Finn when it was published, as a nation we must preserve this novel as it holds a large part of American history. Varying from the 1885 lifestyle, in 2014, Huckleberry Finn is looked at in a much different way.

In current day America, the human race often hides from past mistakes; however, to ensure the purity of our future generations, we must learn about our country’s errors. Contrary to this statement, many schools around the world are in illogicality of teaching the Southern classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to their students. While this novel encompasses a dynamic social issue that children must learn, many teachers argue that the story is far too malicious and that they don’t want to make any students uncomfortable by teaching it. The story shows the severe enmity between a black man and the rest of the white society in the South, which is something that educators don’t want to instill upon young children. Because the n-word is such an explosive term in today’s world, “we think it’s not appropriate to discuss our nation’s racism honestly until college” (DelFattore) states Joan DelFattore, a professor at the University of Delaware. Additionally, the word often causes an emotional trigger, one most definitely not suitable for a child or teen. It’s inappropriate in the eyes of society and teachers should not break that boundary, which separates intentions and reality. On a broader note, Huckleberry Finn is continuously on the top 100 most challenged books list; also, there have been multiple cases where a teacher who dares to educate the story in a deceitful way, gets fired. Therefore, to comfort the instructors who want to teach this definitive novel, but also want to maintain the validity of their job and children can teach the “sanitized” version of Huckleberry Finn. Created by Alan Gribben, the cleansed form of Huck Finn is mainly the same book, but replaces the n-word with “slaves.” Because he receives both negative and positive reactions towards his creation, “Gribben conceded that the edited text loses some of the caustic sting but said: I want to provide an option for teachers and other people not comfortable with 219 instances of that word” (Rawls). Gribben adds an honest reasoning for the re-creation of the book, which could allow the book to be read more widely around younger audiences. Though many people in 2014 believe that Twain’s story is unsuitable for a majority of scholarly environments, the book was never intended for young audiences and can’t be unassumingly converted just for a sense of comfort. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered one of the best books in American literature for a reason. The story is honest and portrays the true life of a Southerner living before the Civil War. As a modern nation, citizens cannot pretend that racism and corruption didn’t occur in our past by avoiding it; instead it’s only right to embrace it. As a student, it’s crucial to learn about the racial turmoil that governed the 1885 United States, the dialect, people, and all that covers the subject. Randall Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor, and “author of a book on the history of the racial epithet in question, says that the term is historically appropriate and that trying to erase the word from our culture is profoundly, profoundly wrong” (Kennedy). Because of this, the “sanitized” version of Huckleberry Finn is an inaccurate showing of the southern lifestyle that Twain originally represented so well. The novel is one of the most solid depictions that we still have today, which explains its prominence to students today. Consequently, a reader who has an open state of mind will easily comprehend the story and its purpose, the hostility between the races in the South. Also, “Critics say removing the racial slur, amounts to censorship and fails to acknowledge America’s racist past” (Abramson). The teachers of United States schools would fail to complete their jobs in teaching the genuine order of the prior South. Without a doubt the corroboration of the classic Huckleberry Finn would be forever lost. As a closing verdict, education will always been valued over comfort. AS the motivational speaker, Les Brown once said, “If you put yourself in a position where you have to stretch outside your comfort zone, then you are forced to expand your consciousness” (Brown). This statement is a datum that every child faced with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should regard. Huckleberry Finn in his story is an advocate of racism; therefore, his slate cannot be polished because he shows the truthful picture of history.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, is rightfully the property of American history. The book is constantly challenged due to uncomfortable and negligent adults who can’t seem to realize that sometimes the crudest literature is the best literature. Throughout the story of Huck Finn, Jim, the runaway slave, is looked upon more as an animal than a human. The story of young Huckleberry is one that cannot be forgotten when studying racism. For this reason, many uneducated readers wonder why Jim is a protagonist of the novel if he is a “worthless n*****.” Jim, who acts as a father figure to Huck, also is used to show a very subversive comment about the racist culture, otherwise known as social commentary. Jim’s core purpose in the story is to act as the universal target so that the dialect and racial feelings of a Southern white man can be portrayed. At one point in to the novel, Huck decides it would be “funny” to trick Jim into thinking that they had been separated; in contrast Jim has quite a different response. While the slave is heartbroken and torn he cries, “my heart wuz mos’ broke bekase you wuz los’, en I didn’ k’yer no mo’ what become of me en de raf’. En when I wake up en find you back again’, all safe and soun’, de tears come” (Twain 102). This scene stands out immensely from the rest of Huckleberry Finn for many aspects. Firstly, this is one of the only scenes in the novel where a “n*****” is shown to have emotions. When Jim is crying and longing for Huck, he is juxtaposing the standard relations of a black and white man, during this time period. Secondly, Twain counteracts Jim’s plea with Huck’s sorrowful apology in future scenes. This part of the book demonstrates the irrational, but outstanding friendship between the runaway slave and the white child. The author is shown to be exceptionally crafty here because he uses social commentary to show that black men are just as loving, just as friendly, and just as equal as white men, beyond society’s strict commandments. This knowledge is so cleverly presented in Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that the book must remain as a tool to teach the unintelligible about racism. To create a false, “sanitized” version of such a compelling, caustic story is imprudent and demeaning. Twain had stern intentions; upon creating Huck Finn that he would show what life was truly like in this corrupted world. It would be asinine of the author to not include the harshness, whether in language or action, of the racial tension. For those who think of Twain as a racist, it is clear that the opening preface was missed, which expresses that:

In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremist 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 a 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 2)

Consequently, Twain specifically reiterated on the Southern dialect that he chose to mimic in his book. Critics of Huck Finn need to realize that the attitudes of Mark Twain’s characters are not derived from his own mind, but from the mind of the common Southerner. The Americans of the future need resources like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to aid to their learning of racial history. Therefore, a form of this novel without the n-word would rid this story of historical clarity. It’s invalid to sugarcoat even the darkest parts of our pasts. Prodigious writing cannot be held back behind the strict expectations of society. In is essential to preserve stories that tell the true history of our nation, no matter if that history is malevolent or amiable.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an American classic novel that must stay in society to teach the dynamic racial corruption of the United States’ past. This novel is an advanced piece of literature that “goes beyond what meets the eye,” in regarding social commentary and racism. Furthermore, Twain was an ingenious man who knew how replicate a social controversy into an untruthful, fantasy world. However, many fail to notice Mark Twain’s skill of the written word. Instead of honoring him for his incredible reenactment of a Southern, racist world, negligent readers often confuse the author’s initiative, and validate him as a racist, which he is most certainly not. A renovated form of the novel would do nothing but slightly increase the comfort levels of a few kids, at the cost of losing the true meaning and racial sting of the original book. Whether Huckleberry Finn educationally or emotionally stimulates your mind, it’s imperative to remember Twain as a fighter for social equality.

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