Huckleberry Finn: A compassionate re-write or a missed opportunity to discuss the effects of our country’s racist past?
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the arguments both for against editing the “n-word” from Mark Twain’s classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. If not, here’s the gist of it:
The case for editing: Alan Gribben, the English professor at Auburn University who re-wrote the novel taking out the “n-word” believes that the new, cleaned up version will help the book regain popularity—since some teachers avoid using it in classrooms because of the offensive term—and make it more accessible to young readers.
The case against editing the “n-word” is two-fold. First, if we start editing the classics—or any work of literature for that matter—where will it end? Second, by lessening the emotional impact of our country’s racist past, we mitigate the way racism impacted our society. There is no other word to substitute for the “n-word” to show how that term was used to dehumanize and devalue African Americans and therefore keep them in a state of servitude long after the fall of slavery. Editing the term bypasses a critical, teachable moment for teachers and students to discuss how racism and racist terms were used and to what end.
To read more about this debate, see www.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/books/07huck.html. And for a nice look at the debate as it unfolds, check out www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/01/05/does-one-word-change-huckleberry-finn.
We want to hear from you! What do you think?
Tags: Huckelberry Finn