The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a book full of controversy and debate. Some will agree that this is a classic too rudimentary for anyone to read, with its bad grammar and discriminating texts. But others believe that this book, which is rich with irony and satire, is a book that everybody should read. True, it is almost impossible to grasp Twain’s satirical style and techniques; but once you read underneath the surface of his words this is a book you’ll agree is an all time American classic.
This book and the argument about whether it should be used in schools to teach has been going on for a while. Many people believe that students should not be forced to read something they feel makes them feel inferior to anyone else. But to the people reading the book, they need to realize that to understand the book you can’t just read off the surface. Twain’s books aren’t just about the words on paper. It’s about how a boy comes to realization about how chaotic society is. Twain portrays Huck as a young innocent boy who doesn’t understand the adult world. This is not, as many people would think, ignorance.
This is satire against society and education to show the kind of education that children were getting. Twain’s satire against society and education throughout the book helps get his message across to the reader about what things were like, and what a boy like Huck went through. Agreed, the grammar in the book does make the story hard to understand, but that is what makes the book what it is. The discriminating texts in the book give the book the meaning Twain tries to get across to his readers. The “n-word” was the operative term that was used to define a black person back in those days.
It seems as if American society is so caught up with racial conflicts, they don’t try to consider understanding the book. If the book had to be rewritten with correct grammar and spelling, and the “n-word” replaced with a different word, it is very doubtful that the book would still be a classic. The people who refuse to read and understand the book do not seem understand that. The book has solid messages that uncover the mistreatment of human beings based on the color of their skin. It shows Huck’s view about Jim change, as they become fast friends.
“If kids can read the Bible about rape, murder, incest etc, then why can’t they read this book? ” (Born to Trouble video) This point is proven in the video that we watched. Twain’s works are not as bad as the vulgar messages being presented in the Bible, so if students shouldn’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn then why should they read the Bible? Sometimes, students aren’t mature enough to handle the meaning of the book. Sometimes, they have to learn about the strategies that Twain uses to understand what messages Twain is trying to get across when using his satirical style of writing.
If they understood his styles, they’d be able to read about how Huck considers Jim as a friend, and almost a fatherly figure. Huck doesn’t think highly of himself when compared to Jim. Instead, he thinks of themselves as equal. He does not give into the way society molds kids’ minds to be like everyone else’s. In a way, the people who speak up about this issue are being side-blinded. High school students use the “n-word” as if it is part of their normal everyday vocabulary, but not many people speak up about that.
It’s actually pretty funny that they don’t say anything about that, but when it comes to required reading, if they see the word in the book, they speak up. There are movies out today that have that word being used, but you don’t see many protestors about those movies. Granted, the people using the word are most of the time, black, but that doesn’t make the word any less meaningful. They make it seem like it is okay for blacks themselves to use the “n-word”, but when it comes to other people saying it, it’s an insult. How is it any different?
If blacks use the word, that just makes it okay for whites, Asians or Hispanics to say it. The kids put meaning to the word, and that’s what hurts. It’s not the word itself; it’s the way the word is used. If the word had a different meaning, I’m pretty sure Twain’s book would not be a subject of controversy as it is. Jane Smiley believes that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is better than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by saying that it’s “the power of brilliant analysis married to great wisdom of feeling” meaning that not only does the book have great analysis, that details the everyday life of a slave, but it also gives off a feeling of true meaning to the book.
She says that Stowe gets underneath the surface of what the slaves being described in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and just in that time period in general) have experienced. She thinks of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a tragedy that has “no whitewash, no secrets, but evil, suffering, imagination, endurance and redemption – just like life,” saying that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is comparable to life with so much more detail than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Smiley compliments Stowe on her use of dialogue, saying that Mark Twain could have taken a page out of Stowe’s book, and use dialogue the same way Stowe did. She does not think that Mark Twain did a good job on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because she said all he had to do to make the book so great was make the main character of the book (Huck Finn) realize that his sidekick (Jim) is human, and it becomes a classic. She argues that Twain does not go deeper into detail about the history and what the slaves were really feeling in those times.
Agreed, Smiley does make a point, saying the dialogue of the book could be better, but like stated earlier, the dialogue reflects the way things were back then. It reflects how people talked and how people interacted with each other and it adds a sort of important asset to the whole reading experience of the book. Without it, it would just seem like another modern book not quite worthy of the attention of all Americans. But when Smiley criticizes the Twain’s book, saying that Stowe’s book is a lot better, you have to wonder why.
Twain’s book is just as good as Uncle Tom’s Cabin minus the whole dialogue issue, and if anything, could be better because of the dialogue. In the Born to Trouble video, a student said “I shouldn’t be forced to read something that makes me feel inferior to anyone. ” But when you really think about it, what about history books? Those books talk about how slaves were treated and how long it took for everyone to get equal rights. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is like a history book, but in a different form.
But it’s easier to understand from Twain’s book because you can actually imagine the story as you read. With history books, it’s just cold hard facts. The same student thinks that she is spending 9 months in school being “demeaned and disrespected” and feels that she should be able to have an education free of discrimination. But how is the book disrespecting her? She lets the book affect her the way it does, and that is what really brings out her anger. Not understanding the book can lead her to thinking she is being demeaned and disrespected.
In the book, Huck never really makes himself seem any higher than Jim. Huck is able to arguing with Jim, showing how close of friends they are, and apologizes to him somewhere in the book. With this evidence, it’s hard to think that this book is being racist. Huck’s view on Jim changes throughout the book as their friendship gets stronger and in the end, instead of seeing him just as a companion, Huck sees him almost like a best friend, or even a father figure, because of the fact that they look out for each other throughout their adventures. “It was a close place.
I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: ? All right then, I’ll go to hell’? and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. “(pg 263-264, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) You can see the change of heart close to the end of the book when Huck plans on turning Jim in. But instead, he takes the letter that he has written, and tears it up.
He realizes how much Jim means to him. He decides that it’s not him that’s wrong for being friends with Jim. Instead, it is society that’s wrong for discriminating against blacks. When Huck looks at all his choices, he comes to the conclusion that, yeah, he might go to hell. But if going to hell meant that he can feel good about himself, then hell yeah, might as well. There’s no use going to heaven if you’re not happy about the decisions you make in life. It’s these sorts of decisions that Huck makes throughout the book that really brings out the true innocent minded kid that lies inside of him.
It’s hard to understand all that when you’re so caught up with racial and political issues, that you are not even able to try to enjoy the book as a whole instead of the controversy it’s come to be. Mark Twain is not a racist man. His background is also important to understanding the book. He lived in a slave trading town, but he didn’t know slavery was bad. But after learning more and more about slavery, he started to oppose it. In face, his family, including in-laws, all opposed slavery. In the book, he does not attack the black, or even the poor people. He attacks the rich and powerful, education and society.
So if Mark Twain opposed slavery so strongly, why would he write a racist book? Many of us do take pride in our race and heritage, so it’s understandable why there would be people who are offended by the words that the book has. That is respectable, but when a great book like this comes along, sometimes, you just have to put all feelings of being offended aside to understand that the book isn’t about racism. It’s about what society is truly doing to corrupt our minds. Twain uses Huck as a main character to show that even young children are targets for this corruption.
Children like to believe what they are first told, so it’s hard to change their minds about something when it’s already so set on one idea already, but this book uncovers many truths about society. Whether it was from that time, or now, the book still makes sense (that is, if you know how to read it). Books are never black or white. They never have concrete ideas. They’re always subjective and filled with many different colors. The way you read a book can affect your view on everything else entirely. Like one of the professors said in the Born to Trouble video, “Great literature transforms the audience.
“You don’t start reading a book with a certain view and end the book with the same view. After reading a book like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you don’t look at like the same way ever again. Huck shows that it is possible to overcome that sort of change. This book uncovers many truths about society. Whether it was from that time, or now, the book still makes sense (that is, if you know how to read it). Books are never black or white. They never have concrete ideas. They’re always subjective and filled with many different colors. The way you read a book can affect your view on everything else entirely.
Like one of the professors said in the Born to Trouble video, “Great literature transforms the audience. ” You don’t start reading a book with a certain view and end the book with the same view. After reading a book like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you don’t look at life the same way ever again. Works Cited Born to trouble Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dir. Jill Janows, PBS Video, 2000, videocassette. Smiley, Jane. “Say It Ain’t So, Huck,” Critism. 61-67 Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Dell Publishing Co. , Inc. 1960.