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Should The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been banned for being racist?

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ms-melisa | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 24, 2009 at 8:38 PM via web

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Should The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been banned for being racist?

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dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 24, 2009 at 10:46 PM (Answer #2)

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Banned???? absolutely not... Huckleberry Finn cuts to the quick of the American experience when it was published. Mark Twain was genius in his use of satire to provoke and force Americans to make a decision, a decision that too many were trying to escape. Twain held them all accountable simply by writing about a boy's journey on a raft, up the Mississippi, with an escaped slave. The irony lies in Huck's eventual understanding... Wasn't that a good thing in a post Civil War era??? Perhaps it is Twain's frankness that makes Huckleberry Finn uncomfortable. Furthermore, as a teacher of history the notion that we should revise history to fit what is considered politically correct debases history itself. According to the leaders of educational change, 'ownership of ones' responsibility is the first step towards the process of change. I mean no offense here however why doesn't the same argument against Huckleberry Finn apply to the massive use of the 'N' word among black urban youth culture??? To address the last inquiry, 'was Twain writing an offensive book towards African Americans? I say no...Twain wrote his novel from the real life experiences of his youth,  that was the reality of his experience. Was it right?? probably not...was it real?? you bet it was, and if we forget that as a people, we know nothing. There is an old saying... good or bad.. if you forget where you came from... you'll never know where you are going. I hope as a nation we remember everything, the good and the bad, cause it will offer us the greatest potential to survive.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 25, 2009 at 1:08 PM (Answer #3)

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Certainly NOT.  How can people feel comfortable banning things just because they don't believe in them?  The quickest way for people to get control over others is to forbid controversial ideas, or guns, or books.  Sounds a lot like communism to me.  Bring on the controversial ideas!  We need the thinking and talking that goes along with them.  We need to understand where we've come from in order to better know where we are going.  Huck Finn is a beautiful book about a boy and his best friend on the river.  It's a great coming-of-age book where we get to see the changes in his thought patterns and the depth of the friendship that develops between those two.  It's nothing more than beautiful human nature, and a word or two within the text should not prevent the world from experiencing it.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 28, 2009 at 8:27 PM (Answer #4)

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Twain published this book in the latter 1800's, well after the Civil War, but was reminiscing about his experiences as a boy in the 1840's, well before it. It's important to understand this work within it's own time, and not apply our current day standards to it, but come to understand the standards that existed when it was written, and within the time it describes. The book was banned in the 1880's because of its depiction of Jim and Huck's relationship; the cultural race relation belief of the day couldn't tolerate the concept of a black man being depicted as a father, as a seeker of freedom, as a mentor to a white boy.  Closer to our own time, it was banned again for a completely different reason, this time because it contained the word "nigger". Those who would bowdlerize Twain, alter his words because they're uncomfortable, or they get upset, or they find it offensive, those who would choose to placate current PC fashion, deface Twain's work and shouldn't be troubled by reading it. Leave the text alone.  The word was merely part of the speech of Twain's youth in the 1840's; suggesting he was attempting to be derogatory and anger people by employing it in his work is attributing current day thinking to the past when it ought not to be.  Letting the book stand as written shows how far we've come.  And if you read the book closely, Twain, in 1880, is saying the same thing about 1840 -- "look how far we've come!"

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted May 24, 2009 at 12:53 AM (Answer #5)

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The book should not be banned. It has proven to be a perennial classic of American and world literature through critical review and analysis. One thing that I am for is that if any school district wants to ban it, or a town does not want it in their system, they should be free to do whatever the local community standards are.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 17, 2012 at 8:03 AM (Answer #6)

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I have heard people complain about how this book is racist.  Of course, these people usually have never read the book and they only know that the n word is used a lot, so they assume it is racist.  Even if they don't, they argue that they do not want children exposed to the word.

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cynrey30 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 27, 2012 at 10:19 AM (Answer #7)

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it should not be banned, people need to see how it was like back in that time. if it is banned it would not give students the opportunity to read it and see that it is a good book. it should not be banned at all. this book is good and peope chould read it so that they can see how hard it was to live in that era, and how people would treat other people.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 9, 2013 at 12:11 AM (Answer #8)

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It seems to me that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn deserves to be read by literature students, but, at the same time, a degree of maturity of perspective is probably necessary for readers to understand the book as it is (and not as the "n" word might make it seem to be). 

Many people want to read this book as a work of commentary on a culture's prevalent attitudes regarding race, yet the text itself does not not bear out this interpretation. There are issues of race and racism in the text, absolutely (some of which remain rather infuriating), but this is a book about the conflict between social mores/morality and personal mores/morality.  

The fact that so many readers have focused on a somewhat minor element instead of the more integral aspects of the novel suggests to me that this book is better left unread until a reader is capable of parsing, weighing, and soberly considering the text as it is. 

 

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