The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn: Great Literature Or Great Insult?

1454 words - 6 pages

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ranks fifth on the U.S. list of most contested books and in the minds of those who have read it, there is no question why. Employing the “N-word” over 200 times and portraying the novel’s sole negro character as superstitious, dull-witted and extremely dependent upon the white characters, Twain weaves a work that’s both excruciatingly racist, yet stealthily opposes the racist attitude itself. The book maintains a steady track record of understandably enraging groups such as the NAACP and families of school children required to read the novel for class, yet in many cases educators and advocates of the book have triumphed; recognizing that the brilliant ...view middle of the document...

Why should children be exposed to words like “Nigger” in the most negative of respects when turning on their I-pods, but not in a context in which the word holds greater power and eventually discourages even its own use? Indeed Twain may call the negro character “Nigger Jim” upon multiple occasion and certainly he alludes to a irrationally superstitious nature with Jim’s prized hair ball that has a “spirit inside it” that “knowed everything” (Twain 19) but in context each factor eventually contributes to Twain’s deeper message that racism is in fact, wrong. Those who cite immorality as the chief means to ban the book are quite clearly the only ones missing Twain’s massive lesson in morality.
Weak to being with, the argument that the deeper meaning of Twain’s work may evade those who are offended by the slurs and thematic content of the book holds very little weight if one puts even slight consideration into Twain’s own Notice at the forefront of the book. Twain warns that those “Attempting to find a motive will be prosecuted” and that persons seeking a moral will be “banished” and lastly that readers desiring the most basic of literary compensation “a plot” will indeed, “Be shot” (Twain 3). After such transparent an opening, we already anticipate that the novel will hold some great significance. Indeed many elementary level children lack the mentality to grasp Twain’s disclaimer, (or, rather foreshadow) but any self respecting middle schooler and beyond will certainly (with some prodding) recognize that Twain is not at all endorsing the use of such terms and neither are their teachers when employing the book in the classroom. “Nigger Jim” may infuriate the likes of Parents and even the NAACP, but they must not fail to recognize that “Nigger Jim” proves to be the most morally sound and humanitarian character of all. In response to a recent stir the book caused, an african american eighth grader told a reporter “Do you think we're so dumb that we don't know the difference between a racist book and an anti-racist book? Sure, the book is full of the word 'Nigger.' That's how those bigots talked back then" ("Racism and the Enduring Controversy of Huckleberry Finn - Society - Social Issues"). Beautifully illustrating not only a deep understanding of the Novels themes at a young age, but the historical punch the use of the term carries. Perhaps he’s a rare example, but with proper instruction and appropriate discretion the book can easily be taught correctly. There is no reason why its educational potential should be shattered by those looking to ban it based solely on superficial concerns.
When debating the books presence in the classroom the harm terms found in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may cause to some can certainly not be overlooked, but neither must be the means it provides educators to attack the “N-word” maturely and leave students more aware of its darkly negative connotation. The sole objective of a teacher is to educate; to...

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