The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn book cover
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Is reading of Huckleberry Finn in schools appropriate? Do you think Huckleberry Finnshould be permitted to be assigned reading in American high schools?  Why or why not?  What do you think of the...

Is reading of Huckleberry Finn in schools appropriate?

Do you think Huckleberry Finn should be permitted to be assigned reading in American high schools?  Why or why not? 

What do you think of the arguments advanced by different parties in the documentary Born to Trouble: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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jovip18 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is an interesting question.  I think a teacher who wants to teach any “controversial” text or a text that someone may deem inappropriate for a specific educational setting needs to answer two questions about the text.

 

  1. What exactly is their intent in teaching the text?  I mean, what is it about the text that is unique or powerful from a literary perspective? 
  2. Is there an acceptable alternative to the offensive text?

 

If the particular message of an “offensive” work of literature is not overwhelmingly unique and powerful, or extremely relevant to a particular aspect of the curriculum, I think that it is just not worth the effort. 

 

I love Twain and I love Huckleberry Finn.  However, most of the time it is just not worth it.  Like previous posters have mentioned, it takes a particular educator with a specific set-up and backdrop to pull off teaching this specific book.  A vast majority of the time it is going to be easier and more time effective to simply teach something else, especially if the students are not really losing out by reading the alternative text. 

 

This is of course completely ignoring negative parent reaction and outside social pressures that teaching this specific book brings.      

 

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I can only imagine how the use of the "N-word" and the treatment of Jim by so many characters might seemingly first be seen as offensive by people of color. I know that when we read it in class, we never read the N-word aloud, not only out of respect for any black students, but because I personally find the word offensive. There are literary purists that believe that within the context of the book, it can be read aloud—but in creating such an offensive climate, I would assert that it is difficult for the true message Twain was sharing to make it through to the individual reader, and the class as a whole.

What I have always found so heartwarming about the book is the "ignorant" backwoods Huck Finn, without formal education or religion, and his ability to find the true meaning of brotherly love and deep, abiding friendship. Huck does trick Jim once into believing that Huck has been lost from the raft, presumably having died. Huck is thoughtless in this, and when he sees Jim's absolute devastation, he is ashamed. From that point on, Huck has learned a lesson about caring for the feelings of others—regardless of race; however, he also learns how much he means to Jim, the runaway slave who has already lost his family.

Twain allows us to study the mind of a Southern born and raised youngster who believes that slavery is an acceptable way of life. We see him struggle with with his conscience in facing what society demands—turning Jim in. And we finally find that he is loving and strong enough to defy society and God (or so he has been taught), to protect Jim and go to hell if that is what it costs him. 

Huck writes a letter to Miss Watson to tell her where Jim (as her runaway slave) is. At first he feels relieved of a great burden, and is sure he will be able to pray. He is amazed "how near I come to being lost and going to hell." But he does not pray and he makes no move to send the letter. He begins to think . And in this we find Huck not to be ignorant at all, but mindful of what he is doing, observant of what society and God expect, and strong enough to make his own choice,...

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nc101310 | Student
No one took up my challenge even after I gave them an extra day so I guess I'll just continue defending the book.
nc101310 | Student

     Yes reading Huckleberry Finn is appropriate, and if anyone doesn't think so they are just ashamed of how accurately Mark Twain caught the picture of history not only of the language but of the culture, too.

     Of course it should be required reading why not if anyone gives me a reasonable answer that I myself can not answer by tomorrow I'll give up on defending the amazing Book of Huck Finn.

I've never seen the documentary but Ill watch it tonight and come back tomorrow to give my opinion, till then Have a great day good night.