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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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What impact does The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have on today's society?

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One example of the impact The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has on current-day society lies in its racial slurs and the debates it has sparked over whether literature should be made "safe" for modern readers.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn continues to have a great impact on society. Ernest Hemingway said that "all modern American literature" comes from Twain's novel, meaning that Twain's handling of Huck's "education" on the river was the beginning of "modernity" in American literature, a kind of original myth of boyhood.

More specifically, Twain's attitude towards slavery and his handling of Huck's relationship with Jim continue to affect discussions about race to this day. Huckleberry Finn is one of the most frequently banned books in public school systems, generally because of its use of racial slurs to refer to Black people and Native Americans. This has resulted in new "expurgated" editions of the book being published, in which the slurs are replaced by more socially appropriate words.

The desire to "clean up" Twain's language is one example of how the book continues to play a role in contemporary social and political debate. Even though the novel was controversial at the time of its publication for its sensitive treatment of Jim, its use of slurs is nevertheless evidence that Twain was not immune to the systemic racism that continues to shape American society. The revised edition raises an important issue: to what extent should past texts be altered to make them "safe" for modern readers?

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