Use of Racial Slurs in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Date:  2021-12-19 16:06:49
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Published in the UK in 1884 and in America in 1885, Huckleberry Finn is a novel authored by Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn also was known as Huck is the narrator of the book: he uses vernacular language which is admirably detailed and entails poetic descriptions of what transpires in the book. Also, Huck uses vivid illustrations of characters and narrative interpretations that are both mostly comic and slightly satirical (The Editors of Britannica).

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Huck, an outcast white boy flees from his abusive father with his adult friend Jim, the runaway slave. Together, they make a long and often interrupted journey down the Mississippi River on a float boat. During the voyage, Huck comes across different characters portrayed in the book to be living along the river. These experiences enable Huck to overcome racial prejudices and learns to respect Jim. The pages of the book are marked with idyllic expressions of the great river and the adjacent forests. As such, Hucks virtuous nature and humor fill the entire book. However, human cruelty presents itself, both in the individuals acts and in their blunt acceptance of such associations as slavery. Hucks natural goodness is contrasted with the outcomes of a society that is corrupt.</p><p>Huckleberry Finn has changed the course of literature among children in America as well as that of the United States in general, presenting the first deep representation of boyhood. It is a model of American pragmatism both for this description and for Twains interpretation of the pre-civil war, particularly through his use of vernacular. This realism was, therefore, the basis of controversy regarding the book in the late twentieth century. The book was considered racist by some people who thought the language used was offensive. Nonetheless, the 2011 publication of a censored and edited version of the book generated debate and many people considered it unacceptable just like the original.

Debates about the novel continue to exist in the present-day day. As such, the source of debate remains race, with some asserting that the reputation of the book as a fictional classic is overstated (PBS.org). In 1998, a parent of a student filed a petition against the school district stating that an already sensitive racial environment was aggravated by the book. Though the panel of judges declined to ban the novel, they maintained that it is the legal duty of a school district to reject a racially destructive environment and can be held accountable for any damages in the event that they fail to make this effort. While some may see this as a success, the queries of whether the novel contributes to racism and whether it should be assigned in schools remained unsolved.

Twain was aware of his actions when he wrote the book The Ventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the midst of todays discussion on the novel-much of which emphasizes on the repetitive usage of racial slurs by almost every individual in the book is Jocelyn Chadwick who is a university lecturer at the Graduate School of Education. Chadwick was tasked with mediating over a debate on whether the novel should be taught in junior high schools in Okla. In that regard, the school board decided that the book should be maintained in the syllabus but only if Chadwick went back to the institution to head a workshop for tutors on how to teach the book.

Although much controversy concerning the book centers on its dialect, other criticism is the use of the novel to signify the pre-civil war in the United States when other literary works might be more suitable in portraying the excruciating slave-holding past in the United States (Powell). Whatever the aim, the constant complains concerning the novel have landed it as number five on the Library Association in America.

Others such as Chadwick believe that the contents of the book should be taught in high schools since it is an important work by one of the most prominent authors in the United States. The book not only highlights the challenging times in the history of America, but it also marks a vital transformational period for Twain himself. Starting with The Adventures of Huckleberry, Twains works are not just stories but a reflection of his social conscience. Apart from the significance of the book in the history of America and in Twains study, it is also vital for the controversy it builds.

According to Chadwick, race is the most difficult issue in America and it needs to be addressed. At times something provocative is needed to spark conversation and thus works of literature are a great way to achieve that. One of the challenges in teaching Twains book is that parents and tutors who refuse its inclusion in the syllabus at times see the text through a lens painted by their own experience.

Some parents have registered their displeasure concerning the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. As such, they have to be constantly reminded that they should preserve the novel and not try to resolve social matters. Racial relations still remain a sensitive issue in the United States and Huckleberry Finn has continued to be a critical rod for disapproval. Also, the Pennyslavia section of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) would like to see the Huckleberry Finn removed from curriculums in junior high schools as well as universities (Powell). However, it does not object to the book being left as voluntary text.

The word nigga appears several times in the text and according to NAACP, it may be damaging to an African-American child. It could also be destructive to a white or Hispanic child. Charles Stokes, the NAACP Pennyslavia state president, claims that the use of words associated with racial strife is unacceptable, especially at a time when the crime rate is on the rise and race relations are delicate. Stokes recommended that the book should not be taught in schools, or else the language should be updated (Powell). According to him, the words in the book might sound okay but they are not okay with certain groups of people.

Not only does the NAACP objects the inclusion of Huckleberry Finn in the syllabus, but also Jonathan Arac, a Professor of English at Pittsburgh University agrees that the novel should be eliminated from reading lists. On the other hand, Arac does not support that it should be removed from the syllabus completely. He thinks that the book should only be included in school curriculums if students are passionate about it. Also, if teachers want to teach it and if they have an utmost understanding of how its contents might be destructive.

Overall, the issues addressed in Huckleberry Finn are significant to scholars such as Chadwick whose ancestry is traced to slaves. In her workshop, she talked about the significance of preparing learners for the dialect used in the book by talking about the era depicted in the novel. For her, students should be provided with an alternative version if they find the book offensive or too intolerable. That way, it provides a more sanitized version of dealing with provocative issues.

Works Cited

PBS.org. Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1885. n.d. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/literature/huck.html.

Powell, Alvin. Fight over Huck Finn continues Ed School professor wages battle for Twain classic. 28 September 2000. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2000/09/fight-over-huck-finn-continues-ed-school-professor-wages-battle-for-twain-classic/.

The Editors of Britannica. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 13 March 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Adventures-of-Huckleberry-Finn-novel-by-Twain.

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