Space Ramblings

Rewriting Huckleberry Finn

You probably already know the story, if you don’t, go here. Bottom line, a prof is doing a version of Huckleberry Finn without a particular racial slur attached to Jim’s name. Critics say it misses the point. And it probably does.

Huckleberry Finn was anti-racist, but like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it was also racist. It’s not the story of Jim, and at no point in the book is Jim really anything like an equal. He has that much in common with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Huckleberry Finn is still a great book and it’s worth teaching. It’s more worth teaching than most of the books that do get taught. And unlike Merchant of Venice or The Good Earth, at least it was an unintentional racism by a man living at a time when slavery was a reality, and was speaking out against the degradation of other human beings.

Huckleberry Finn and The Red Badge of Courage are some of the few accessible books that can actually be taught because they capture the gritty reality of a period. Should that gritty reality be censored? Isn’t that the same reason we’re not supposed to censor rap music? Does censoring Huckleberry Finn make it more accessible? It might make it less accessible. It’ll offend fewer people, but add enough black bars and bleeps and what’s left doesn’t feel relevant anymore.

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