Great literature has always run into great controversy, such as classics like The Catcher and the Rye by J. D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and of course The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is of the antics of a 13-year-old Huck, and adult runaway slave. This piece of writing is found to be a classic and a standard for American literature; although recent debate on Twain’s racist language and stereotypical view on African Americans is questioned as appropriate for public education.
Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be taught in public schools, because the story should not be thought of as demeaning to blacks, or that Jim is considered a stereotype of black culture, but merely the characterization is being honest to the story and its time period. In her article “Huck Finn: Born to Trouble” Katherine Schulten states that parents had additional worries, that Jim would never seem like a true hero to African American children because he does not resist thralldom.
Mark Twain did not want Jim to be some tough guy, who went against the ways of society, who resisted slavery ; does that make the story bad? No it does not, Twain wrote Jim as he was because that is what he was presented with during the time of slavery. Forrest Robinson agrees that Jim’s characterization is profoundly true to the realities of his experience in the novel; but it is culturally true as well in the apparent inconsistency that it has seemed, in the eyes of the audience, to betray. (“The Characterization of Jim in Huckleberry Finn”).
The reality is not many slaves rebelled against white suppression, but there were slaves who escaped from the grips of slavery as Jim did. Charles E. Wilson Jr. author of Race and Racism In Literature notes that Jim’s role in this book is presented from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy. So while Jim may appear to be an object instead of a man, it is rather Huck’s bias and naive version of Jim that we see. In Huck’s viewpoint Jim is a “nigger”, and a slave, and in such manner, he should remain inferior to Huck, even though ironically, Huck treats Jim altruistically.
Throughout the novel Jim presents his wisdom, but Huck considers it a site of black inferiority. In almost every instance of Twain’s verbal irony, Jim emerges the intellectual victor. Although Jim is foreseen as a weak, dumb, stereotypical black because it is in the narrative of a “civilized” white boy. This story is truly one of the great American novels of all time, nothing like it had ever been done, and nothing like it has ever been done since.
As Shelley Fishkin points out Huckleberry Finn allowed a different kind of writing to happen: a clean, crisp, nonsense, earthy, vernacular kind of writing that jumped off printed page with unprecedented immediacy and energy; it was a book that talked. (“ Huck’s Black Voice”) Twain’s writing was every bit of unusual, he did not write to comfort the human minds, or to pamper the society and mask the human faults. This novel has enticing freedom, not just in the story, but as a novel itself; no book had ever tried to break free from the hackneyed writing of the time.
“As I knew from my first encounter with the book on high school, critics had long viewed Huckleberry Finn as a declaration of independence from the genteel English novel tradition. ” (“Huck’s Black Voice”) Great literature has always run into great controversy. Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from what he was provided with in his society, he did not give any false illusions of what was going on; he simply wrote an adventure of escape through the eyes of a young 13-year-old white boy. Does it have racism?
Yes–but it also has self-discovery, chivalry, friendship, and vibrant adventure. Public education should continue in the use of this great novel because of what it provides. Just from this one topic of the book, it has stirred much discussion and debate. Imagine, all this interaction, involvement, and opinion in the classroom from kids of many backgrounds. When it comes down to it, this book makes the reader think of what really matters in life, and that anyone can make a difference. Works Cited Wilson, Charles E. Race and Racism in Literature. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood, 2005. Print.
Courtney from Study Moose
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