Huckleberry Finn Cleans Up His Act But Only a Little

I have been making my way through more of Twain’s autobiographical fragments, but haven’t gathered my thoughts to write about them. In the meantime, the reading public is abuzz with annoyance and disappointment that a new edition of Huckleberry Finn will be published without the infamous “n word.” The argument is that the word alone makes the book a barrier to inclusion in classrooms, frustrating teachers who would like to include it but don’t want to teach, you know, that word.

I am not as outraged as others about this. For one thing, it’s not like this edition will replace all existing editions. It is but one edition, particularly for K-12 use, which most of us will never even encounter. For another, it’s just one word. Well, two words (an objectionable term for Native Americans is also dropped).

I think people are selling the novel short to suppose it can’t survive a little editing. The book captures the antebellum American South well enough that the attitudes of its characters will be quite plain without the word. I think the experiences of Huck and Jim will still be as funny as they’ve always been, their growing friendship and respect for each other as touching, and the scene where Huck rips up that letter will be as profound and moving as ever. If thousands of kids get to that scene who would have otherwise never read it, then so be it.

Maybe some of them will go on and read the original, non-bowdlerized edition.


Reposted from Two Fathoms

3 thoughts on “Huckleberry Finn Cleans Up His Act But Only a Little

  1. I appreciate your perspective on this topic. However, I am dismayed at the obvious censorship at work here. Yes, I’d categorize it as censorship rather than editing. Even so, your rationality and knowledge of the subject at hand makes for an interesting viewpoint.

    Jones, My Opinion…

  2. I’m of two minds about this, as I am with most things. I think authenticity is important, whether in description of character or place or in dialogue. It can even be a way for teachers to bring up and discuss hurtful language. Otherwise, hailing from Appalachia, I might like to see redneck, hillbilly, and white trash eliminated from the vocabulary. But, unfortunately, these terms of endearment are used daily, even by educated folk who get riled over politics.

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