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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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Why was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn banned?

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is often banned in schools and libraries for its language and portrayals of race.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was first published in February 1885, and by March of that same year, librarians in Concord, Massachusetts were already stating that the book was good for only the "slums" and that it ought to be banned. Other descriptions of the book at the time claimed it was "racist," "inaccurate," "mindless," and even "obsolete."

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been banned for a variety of reasons depending on the time and place. Amazingly, the bans didn't seem to bother Mark Twain all that much. Twain believed that the controversies surrounding his book would only help increase sales of the book. I would say that he was right, since more than forty editions have been published and the book had sold more than ten million copies by 1960, and continues to sell today.

One reason that the book is consistently banned is that some people believe that the book is racist. They do not like how Jim is portrayed, and some people state that he is not a credible character. Other racism comments focus on the how the book uses the highly offensive n-word 213 times. Still other complaints against the book are purely language based and ban the book for using bad grammar. Finally, the book has been called sexist and banned by some feminists for its portrayal of women.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has proven to be a bestseller and one of the great American novels, but it is likely to continue being banned for one reason or another.

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What are the objections to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain? Why was it banned?

While the racial language is the primary reason for Huck Finn being banned, there are several other causes for the controversy that the book has caused.  The novel was first published in England because Twain knew that American readers, particularly the American South, would not appreciate his harsh criticism of the culture and beliefs that were associated with the region at that time. The novel was published several years after the Civil War, and the wounds and bitterness between the North and South had not dissipated.

Secondly, Twain's portrayal of a precocious boy as the novel's savvy narrator and protagonist offended those who believed that good writers do not promote poor grammar and smart-mouthed children.  While, of course, these elements are part of Twain's satire, many readers miss the satire and see the novel as a poor example of how children should act and talk.

Finally, modern readers still struggle with Twain's portrayal of Jim as simple and unintelligent.  While some critics argue that Twain's motivation in his characterization of Jim was to demonstrate Jim's pure conscience despite his lack of formal education, Jim still comes across as a man who is to be pitied.  I have to admit that it is always difficult to teach this aspect of the novel, because many of my students see Twain's portrayal of Jim as his true view of African-Americans from that time period.  It is difficult to know what Twain's real motivation was in this area; so readers have to make their own interpretation of Jim's characterization.

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What are the objections to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain? Why was it banned?

The major objection to Huck Finn is its use of what we would now call racially insensitive language.

In the book, Mark Twain uses the word "nigger" over and over.  This word, of course, is no longer acceptable for use by people who are not themselves African American.  Since Twain was white, his use of the word is seen as racist.

People often fear that schoolkids who are exposed to the book will be harmed by the use of this racist language and by its other manifestations of racism (Jim is often treated as being pretty simple-minded and superstitious).  They fear that black children will have their self-image lowered and that non-black children will be encouraged to hold racist attitudes.

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What are the objections to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain? Why was it banned?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered objectionable for several reasons, but I believe it is mostly due to the amount of racial slurs that occur in the novel.  The characters freely use the "n" word, a word now considered taboo, although that word was commonly used in day-to-day language during the time period in which the novel takes place.  I also remember reading that because Huck goes against the rules and laws of society( even though we now know those same rules to be ridiculous), it could potentially have a negative influence on younger readers, allowing them to believe it is ok to go against social laws and regulations. I would say, though, that main reason why it is banned is due to the language. 

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