Should In the Heat of the Night be banned for the usage of the n word?Should In the Heat of the Night be banned for the usage of the n word?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is purely my personal opinion, and you are likely to get differing opinions in response to your question.  What is important is for you to consider both sides for yourself and be able to support your own opinion. 

I think that In the Heat of the Night should not be banned because of its use of the "n" word for three reasons.  

First, the use of the word allows the reader to understand and to feel the effects of racism on the main character.  It is representative of a conflict in the novel.  Imagine a story in which there is a fierce fight between two characters and they call one another "dear" and say "please" and "thank you" the whole time they are fighting.  I know this is a silly image, but I am sure you can see why the choice of words in a story can and should show if there is a conflict. 

Second, the setting of this novel is important, and setting should be reflected accurately.  This was the word used to address African-Americans by many people at the time, and I do not think that a novel's setting should be altered in any way because a word offends us. 

Third, stories give us a picture of other times and places, and that can teach us a great deal about history, which allows us to have a better perspective on our own times.  It is better for us to know what life was like for African-Americans in the past.  If we have some insight into how bad it was, it encourages us to make sure history does not repeat itself. 

Interestingly, a new edition of Huckleberry Finn is being published right now.  The word "slave" has been substituted for the "n" word throughout the book.  This new edition is a response to the fact that many school districts do ban the book because of the "n" word, and the publisher hopes that this change will allow more students to read a great American novel.  My opinion about this is that we should be reading the book as it was written, for all the reasons I stated above.  What do you think? 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If we start this trend of deleting certain words because they are not politically correct or they may offend some group, we venture upon a most dangerous path.  For, where does such action end?  Do we expunge passages because they offend, or are counter-culture?  Do we rewrite history as the Communists once did?  There is a terribly frightening potential for the loss of verisimilitude in fiction and verity in life.

It is amazing how people insist upon the censorship of words and passages when they do not even understand the import of these words or passages, let alone the true meaning of the book (if, indeed, they have even read the book).  In Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance, the author uses certain language as part of his satire, depicting the ignorance of some about men such as Jim, who is the best person in the novel.  There is no intention of derogating black people; rather, Twain wishes to show how human and humane the man really is. Of course, now with the milky words injected into the narrative, the sharpness of Twain's satire is mitigated.

In the Heat of the Night strives for verisimilitude, as well.  There is absolutely no need to expunge any words or passages for all the reasons stated so well in Post #2.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous answer.

One of the major themes of this book is the racial tensions that were present in the deep South during the time of the Civil Rights Movement.  The use of that particular word certainly helps to bring out the true levels of hatred that people felt over racial issues in that time and place.  I'd say it's much more important to keep the word in this book than in Huck Finn.

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In the Heat of the Night

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