Hello, my fellow book bloggers and book blog readers! By now I've read that many of you are abuzz with the recent news that a publishing firm has decided to release an edited version of Mark Twain's offensive so-called classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This new masterpiece will have the word "slave" replacing... well, you know... I'm not going to say the dreaded word that is currently being omitted, but can I just say, it's about time! For years high school students have been subjected to this awful word alongside Twain's hideous spelling and grammar in an attempt at what the author claimed was capturing the dialect of the people - supposedly giving life to the spirit and culture of the time period. This is not what we want our school children being exposed to. If the idea were ever planted that these "characters" that Twain wrote about were in any way similar to the actual people that populated the United States in that time period, we may actually run the risk of having students relate to their country's history. Following that, young adults may go so far as to judge the actions of the former leaders and citizens of this country and dare to learn from their history.
Thankfully, Huckleberry Finn is not an actual depiction of the South in Twain's day. It's an exaggeration, a fantasy. Twain never meant to actually write about people and things as they were. By converting the word... well, um... the offensive word to the term "slave" we can remove any thoughts that readers may acquire about the dehumanization that people of African descent may or may not have gone through during that time period. As we all know, "slaves" were properly treated and cared for by their white counterparts so there is no need to convey racial tension by using such an offensive term as... um, you know. In fact, why are we stopping by simply changing the words Twain used? We could certainly go further in improving this work if we were to remove the institution of slavery from the book altogether. Huck and Jim could simply be buddies, equals - two guys on a raft, cruising the Mississippi and having some grand adventures! But then again, that...ahem...word is far more abhorrent than the actual institution of slavery. The occurrence of one group of people enslaving another simply due to skin color could not come anywhere close to being as offensive as a certain arrangement of six letters.
But while I'm on the subject of further changes to the book, I still must take umbrage at the character of Huck Finn. Many groups were content to call for the banning of Twain's book simply over two hundred uses of the word... well... you know... but now they can focus on the real problem with the novel. Huck Finn himself is actually quite in need of some character reform. Here we have an unkempt, impoverished boy who routinely curses, smokes, skips school and church, and runs away from home. I am glad that those who call for the banning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can now focus on their second, third, fourth and fifth reasons to want the book kept out of schools. In fact, in what many scholars quote as the most impactful scene of Twain's novel, the so-called boy-hero makes a despicably wrong choice! And then goes on to swear about it! I hesitate to post this passage because it does contain the word - that most definitely needs deletion - and that one word will seriously overwhelm and deter from the point this passage is trying to make... but if you can possibly get past it and muster your constitution (keep your smelling salts handy) I would dare be so bold as to share it with you:
So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter - and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. Huck Finn.I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking - thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and suchlike times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he's got now; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.
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. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
~The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Can you imagine that this is dared to be hailed as one of Twain's greatest pieces of writing? I lost count of the number of grammatical errors within the first half dozen sentences! Was there a "warn't" in there? Warn't? Really, Twain? Not to mention again, the horrendously offensive word that by its very presence negates any potential value of this passage of writing. No wonder we need a revised edition of this novel!
In the scene I quoted we witness the misguided Huck Finn choosing to go against the laws of his country for the sake of a second-class citizen that he dares to cherish as a friend. What kind of an example is this to present in a book that most Americans read in high school, around fourteen to seventeen years of age? These newly developing minds and personalities of students are far too fragile to be exposed to these types of rebellious ideas. Also, because the majority of them will read this book in school, and likely never again in their adult lives, if we can alter Twain's ridiculous profanity and grotesque grammar for this audience, we may actually succeed in preventing any and all Americans from ever being exposed to the original version that currently exists!
And so, to the publishing house that has the gumption to alter and adjust a work that has stubbornly stood steadfast against controversy since the dawn of it's first printing, I congratulate you. American Literature will never be the same and I can't wait to see what you dare to revise next.
*Please note that this post is intended entirely as satire. Please accept it with the full course of humor, sarcasm, and absurdity it is intended to convey. If I've dared to offend anyone's delicate sensibilities, blame my high school English Lit instructor who first introduced me to the geniuses Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. I hold Mark Twain in the highest regard among my favorite classic authors. Please contact me, the author, before reposting any portion of this document. Special thanks to author M.Clifford who started me on my soapbox about the alterations to Twain's writing. Clifford's novel The Book deals with the issue of censorship and political adjustments to classic works of literature and I am among one of many who never imagined that his creative dystopia could mirror reality so well so soon.*