What was Mark Twain critized for at the end of chapter 27 in Huckleberry Finn?

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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This is the chapter about Peter's funeral. The Duke and the King have stolen money, Huck takes the money from the Duke and King's room intending to get it back to Mary Jane, but as he is sneaking away through the parlor, he hears someone coming. It turns out to be Mary Jane. Huck quickly stashes the money in Peter's coffin, rationalzing that this is going to be OK, because when he and Jim escape up the river, he will write Mary Jane, tell her to dig up Peter's remains, and she can get the money after all.

When the King and the Duke realize the money has been stolen from their room, they question Huck. Huck says the only ones he has seen go into their room has been "the niggers." So he blames the theft on them, and the Duke and King believe it, telling Huck that they should have known. The Duke says:

“It does beat all how neat the niggers played their hand. They let on to be sorry they was going out of this region! And I believed they was sorry, and so did you, and so did everybody. Don't ever tell me any more that a nigger ain't got any histrionic talent. Why, the way they played that thing it would fool anybody. In my opinion, there's a fortune in 'em. If I had capital and a theater, I wouldn't want a better lay-out than that—and here we've gone and sold 'em for a song. Yes, and ain't privileged to sing the song yet. Say, where is that song— that draft?”

It's a very racial comment about blacks. Most of the controversy surrounding this novel has centered around the question of prejudice: is the novel a racial affront or is the novel an underhanded criticism of racism? Critics cannot agree, but this is one section of the novel that could be construed as racial. Further, Huck is relieved that he was able to blame "the niggers" without doing any harm to them, because they have already escaped, but yet, he really has done them harm in a larger sense by allowing people to believe that they are no good anyway, and nothing but thieves.

Read about it here on enotes.

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