Should Huck Finn Be Required To Read In Schools

1817 words - 8 pages

Huck Finn: Recommended but not Required
The probability of a student being able to understand and appreciate the value of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn if having been introduced to it too young and with a poor teacher is like a seed being able on to grow on concrete: improbable and disappointing. Similar to a student, a seed needs conducive and nurturing conditions in order to grow— that’s why only a small few end up reaching their full potential. Seeds need access to direct sunlight, water, and proper soil. Students need access to passionate teachers who are invested in educating their students properly—especially when it comes to challenging literature.
The Adventures ...view middle of the document...

Although it is true that schools who pay their teachers a higher salary and offer better working conditions typically attract instructors with higher educational levels, obtaining a “high education” does not directly correlate with having passion or eagerness to explain all types of complicated text. For example, Jane Smiley is a very educated and accomplished woman. She has her doctorate degree, was an English professor for sixteen years, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. She is living proof that it is possible to be exceedingly intelligent yet still misinterpret Huck Finn. She made the very common mistake in her essay “Say it Ain’t So, Huck” of confusing the narrator with the author. She states, “When the Duke and the Dauphin finally betray Jim by selling him for forty dollars, Huck is shocked, but the fact is neither he nor Twain has come up with a plan that would have saved Jim in the end. Tom Sawyer does that.” Smiley is forgetting that Twain is not Huck. She doesn’t blame or hold any grudges against Huck; instead she criticizes Twain is “the real villain” for never intending Huck to be the hero. Smiley is someone who, if forced by the curriculum to teach Huck Finn, would not do it with passion because she herself doesn’t entirely understand it. I have no doubt that she was an excellent English professor; however, she probably only taught books she was genuinely passionate about – which most likely didn’t include Huck Finn, to the benefit of both her and her students.
Elements of racism also cause many educators to be uncomfortable teaching this work of literature. The word “nigger” is said 219 times during the duration of Huck Finn and is the root of the majority of controversy surrounding this book. The word “nigger” is degrading and painful, but it also has an immense amount of historical significance. It is critical that teachers explain the context and purpose of this word to their class correctly and thoroughly, as it is one of the most misinterpreted parts of this novel. Those who can’t read though Twain’s satire commonly perceive his constant use of the word “nigger” as him supporting the racist attitudes; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the more prominent examples of Twain’s use of satire is when Huck is asked by his Aunt Sally if anybody was hurt in a ferry accident. “No’m. Killed a nigger,” (232). Here, Twain is using satire very bluntly to reveal the superiority whites thought they held over blacks, and how some whites didn’t even consider them to be human. Here, Twain is obviously soundly criticizing this common belief. Another instance of when Twain uses satire to highlight the “stupidity and inhumanity of the Caucasian belief in genetic superiority” (June Edwards, author of What’s Moral about Huckleberry Finn) is when Huck’s father, Pap, is compared to a black college professor. Pap is ranting about how “It was ’lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn’t too drunk to get...

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