The Controversy of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Essay
The Controversy of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a historical fiction that has caused a great deal of controversy. Its frequent use of the N-word has been viewed by many as racist and a cause of the lowering of self esteems for the colored people. The NAACP has specifically targeted this book and urged that it be removed from the required reading list. As much as they claim they are not aiming for censorship, they are doing exactly that by asking for the banning of the book.
Knowledgeable students who have been educated in American history when reading the book will have come to the acknowledgement that in the time of slavery, “nigger” was a disparaging word commonly referring to a black person. However, we are no longer in the times of slavery. “Nigger” like any other word can only be interpreted by the way it is taken. I believe this book is in no way offensive, should not be banned, and readers should not be refrained from reading such stories. The constant and over usage of the N-word has been said to lower the self-esteem of children.
“The word nigger is in it more than 39 times in the first 35 pages (Grossman). ” When I started reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I noticed the word “nigger” arose in almost every other sentence. It in no way hurt my self esteem, but instead made me laugh at how often it was used in those times, how often it’s used now, and the modulation of its original meaning in today life. The book is an American Classic. Not only was it adventurous and interesting, but educational in the sense that it clearly depicted past times.
“We want to clearly state that it is not our intent to have this or any book censored” said the NAACP, but that is exactly what they are doing. They feel historical context is not properly explained before allowing students to read the book. This is a good point for them because most readers who have a good enough background wont take any offence to the book. With the issue of censorship, disgracing times of American history should not be hidden in the case of “sensitivity”. As awful as slavery was, it can’t be buried and kept from the nation.
With knowledge of history, terrible times can be prevented from reoccurring. At Allen High School, an 11th grade teacher explained Twain’s use of the N-word to students. They understood that the way it was used in the past is a lot different from today’s use of the word (Grossman). “Critics mistakenly cite the use of the n-word and the American Black English dialogue as proof the books are racist (Brasch). ” It surprises me that critics haven’t come to see that the word in usage has now gained a different meaning.
Based on the essay “The N-word and How to Use It”, the word “nigger” can either be expressed out of love or out of hatred. The word “nigger” is a paradox in itself. Several whites have asked “How can any self respecting black person stand to use it? ” They also questioned why black kids call each other “my nigga” and whether it was a self hatred thing (Currie). It’s not seen as a self hatred thing but apart of culture. “We take what’s given to us or thrown at us, and we find a way to make it our own (Currie).
” Currie gives many different analogies as to how blacks made things their own. “Blacks melded African rhythms and European music to create jazz, took the parts of livestock whites didn’t use to create soul food, and took “nigger” and disarmed it by making it a household word. You can only be destroyed by believing what you are what the white world calls a Negro (Currie). ” This is true because you can only be offended depending on how you take things. A white person calling a black person nigga is different than a black person calling a black person nigga.
Being that Jane Addams is predominately colored, I do not believe The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be removed or banned from the curriculum. Whether anyone would like to believe it or not, the word “nigger” is used in everyone’s day to day language. Reading the book would not be a first hand exposure to the word. Many know how it was used in times of slavery and use it differently today. You will even see white people call their white friends “nigga”. Even in a sentence with a confrontation where one would say “F— you nigga”, nigga would be defined as man.
Jane Addams students should not be held back from reading such a remarkable novel. “It doesn’t promote racism? What it does is show the stupidity of racism (Grossman). ” Therefore the book is considered inspiring. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just a novel that has great accuracy with depicting history. Many Americans are afraid of the past. Knowing about the past can help aim for a better future. I would be upset if the book was banned at my school. I do agree though that before the book is given to students, there should be some historical background taught just to be safe.
Offense of the book also depends on the areas of where the books are read. For example white communities and black communities may take different views on whether the book is actually offensive or not. Many blacks know what they mean when they say “nigga”. Works Cited Brash, Walter. “An argument against book banning. ” Currie, Bennie. “The N-Word and How to Use It. ” The Chicago Reader. 19. December. 1997 Grossman, Elliot. “Huckleberry Finn target of campaign by NAACP group doesn’t want censorship, but asks book be taken off required-reading lists. ” The Morning Call.