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Recently, a professor at Auburn University expunged the word "nigger" from every page that contained it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This action exemplifies the problems that occur when one seeks to "modernize" a work of literature that is set in a historical context. Quite simply, the novel loses its verisimilitude. In Twain's novel, for instance, the n-word is used because this is what people said, and Huck merely uses it as one would use any common word; he has no denigration intended. In fact, as the narrative continues and Huck begins to perceive Jim as a loving and caring friend, he decides to "go to hell" for protecting an escaped slave, believing that slavery is wrong. So, if Huck did not speak of Jim as merely a n----, how would he be able to change in his perceptions, a key theme of the novel.
Therefore, whenever people read a novel, they must accept the verisimilitude which exists in this novel, even if they find some words or situations offensive by modern standards. Clearly, Margaret Mitchell attempted a realistic portrayal of the Old South, so she used words and situations that are realistic to the setting of pre-Civil War and post-Civil War. Otherwise, the narrative loses its value. Besides, Scarlett actually cares for Mammy. And, Prissy is meant more for comic relief than she is for racial ridicule. Readers must not forget that Gone With the Wind is a historical romance, so they need not be so politically critical. It is meant to portray the drama of the South under the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Novels are works of literature that often reflect the human experience of their time period. Are they, now, to be censored, edited, or maligned because they represent their era realistically? These works of literature are an important part of history, and must remain so.
Before reading any historical fiction one should always review the time period in which the novel is set extensively. After doing so, the race and gender roles in Gone With the Wind seem somewhat benign compared to the horror a good researcher could find that existed throughout the area.
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