Last year, NewSouth Books released a copy of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain with the n-word removed. This particular account of censorship caused uproar and, well, I’m uproaring with the best of them.
I am currently reading “Huck Finn” in my AP Language & Composition class. The pre-Civil War satirical novel about a young boy who runs away from his abusive drunk of a father and ends up travelling with a fugitive slave is one of the best books about racism I have ever read. The novel pokes fun at the racist South in an indirect way, Twain getting his point across without writing it in black and white. He also uses the correct slang of the time period, the n-word included, to tell the story in the most historically-correct form he could.
There is an ever growing list of why people don’t like the slang inside “Huck Finn”.
- It’s racist!
- It’s offensive!
- It’s an awful word!
- Our children should not be allowed to read this!
But the truth is, if you change the words in a book, it isn’t truly by the original author anymore. Take a book, for my example I will use “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green, and change any 30 words you want. Is it still John Green’s book? No. You have changed some of the words he spent hours writing and now the book has two authors, you and him. By changing the words, you are not protecting innocent eyes, you are changing the words people spent months, even years, writing to make it perfect to their vision.
Another rising issue with changing the words is about our children, the next generation. Right now, we know the language used in “Huck Finn” and although we aren’t comfortable with it, we know that that’s how people in pre-Civil War times talked about African Americans. By taking out the racial slur, our kids won’t get to have this same knowledge. They won’t know that “Huck Finn” was changed. By taking out one simple word, well, it could change how a whole generation looks at the Civil War, and the racism, and even misinterpret certain parts of history, just because we find it offensive even though it was not meant offensively.
All in all, by changing the words of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” just to be more 21st century racial conscious, are we really doing what is best for ourselves and the generations to come? I’ve told you my stance, but I want to hear yours. Please comment below.
P.S. another great article to read on this subject is http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/01/censoring_huck_finn_wrong_wron.html