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Why Do So Many Schools "B-Word" Huck Finn?

April 13, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 174

Any time a novel deals with a controversial subject matter, the antennae of censors across the country go up, and the work may banned if they deem there is even the slightest prospect of someone being offended. Such was the case with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, one of Mark Twain's most beloved classics. Many schools and libraries felt that the issue of racial tensions presented within made it inappropriate to be feature on their shelves. They hadn't seen anything yet.

Soon afterward, Twain wrote a sequel - Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the success and acclaim of the follow-up story would far exceed even that of the original - a feat very rarely achieved, but most recently accomplished, of course, by Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Today, Huck Finn is considered one of the Great American Novels, but it didn't have an easy road to popularity. It delved even deeper into the issue of racism than did its predecessor, and in particular made generous use of the "N-word," this perhaps being the main reason it was so widely censored.

The word has such an ugly history and carries with it such a negative connotation that you will very often see it just as we have written it here, rather than in full. You won't see it in any newspapers or magazines, and you certainly won't run across it while taking your PSAT. The n-word is as taboo as it gets. Of course, Twain didn't use the word to offend. He used it because his main character would have used it, and aside from creating a sense of naturalism, it helped cement in a reader's mind the weight and impact the word had on those to whom it referred. Fiction writers often have to go to some pretty uncomfortable places in order to give their work meaning, especially so when a story is told in first person from a character's perspective.

Huck Finn was written 20 years after the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery. However, that hardly means that racism had - or has even today - been wiped out. While there are now many minorities in positions of authority and power - heck, we have ourselves an African American president now - it is still much harder for a minority to climb the corporate ladder than it is for a white male, or to make as much money as their white counterparts should they happen to succeed. Racism still runs rampant in this country.

So Huck Finn may not have solved racism, but it certainly got people talking and thinking about it. Hopefully there will be a day that racism is such a thing of the past that no one finds anything interesting or controversial about these two novels at all, but thinks of them only as good adventure stories. That is, if Native Americans have forgiven Twain by then for "Injun Joe."

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