Monday, January 10, 2011

Bowdlerizing Huck Finn

Some idjit is republishing Huck Finn, replacing "nigger" with "slave" (as if they are the same) and "Injun" with--well, I don't know what.

Joanne quotes Chicago columnist Clarence Page--for whom I have some respect, even though I agree with him very seldom. This, however is one of those times, as Page suggests we "teach the conflict". Additionally, I agree completely with the first 4 comments on Joanne's post.


Ellen K said...

I wonder if they are also editing for content Maya Angelou and countless other authors for similar incindiery words. Twain was not particularly conservative and his choice of that word was designed to show the ignorance prevalent in the society of the time. This action betrays utter ignorance on Twain's deft use of words to indict. They've blunted his arrows. Shame on them. This is why I will never have e-books because they could edit entire volumes and most would be none the wiser.

neko said...

The word "nigger" is used in Huck Finn a total of 219 times.

If you have a student that tells you they are offended by Huck Finn, ask to see the current content of their MP3 player -- In most cases, I'll bet that you'll find that their MP3 player uses of the word "nigger" more than the book does.

maxutils said...

Anyone who has actually *read* Huck Finn knows that it is among the least racist books of its era. The entire novel was a dark satire of American hypocrisy, arrogance, and racism. To remove the epithets that are so casually tossed around is to completely miss the point: if you can't see how racist the majority of the characters in the book are, including Huck, then you might as well skip reading it. Nigger Jim is the ONLY sympathetic character in the book; his ability to rise up and do the right thing on a consistent basis, despite the racism he is faced with on a consistent basis, is a powerful message that should be empowering to black students. But, then again, they're probably not reading the book; they're just waiting to hear their teacher say nigger.

That said, when I was reading it for the first time in high school, one of the most embarrassing, uncomfortable things I ever had to endure was my *very8 white teacher attempt to read aloud from the book, using the Negro dialect. *shudder*

pseudotsuga said...

Yes, the book is a SATIRE of American attitudes and manners of the time, especially involving slavery. To deliberately remove "nigger" from the book is to misunderstand it--that English "professor" who proposed this needs to tear up his diploma, since he clearly shows his ignorance.
Why just sidestep the issue of the word, when the whole POINT of literature is to DEAL with it?
If the word hurts, examine why--is it YOUR fault, or is it the intent of the author to do so?