Thursday, January 6, 2011

No more Ni99as in "Huck Finn"

I'm sure you heard by now the controversy surrounding the removal of the "n-word" from the book Huck Finn. 

For those of you that don't know, there are words and characters in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" that have always been controversial, N*gger Jim and Injun.  The publishers of "Huck Finn" have decided to replace the "n-word" in the book with the word "slave" and removed the word "Injun" in an effort to make the book more "appropriate" for school children.

From the Ottawa Citizen:
According to Publishers Weekly, the new edition will replace the inflammatory term — which appears 219 times in the original novel — with the word "slave." It will also drop the word "Injun" and should be available in the U.S. next month.
Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books will publish the new version in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which will sell for $24.95 U.S.
"This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colour-blind," Gribben told Publishers Weekly. "Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."

In my opinion, while the words out of context do have a deep seeded meaning rooted in hatred and oppression, Mark Twain's books were meant to be a critique of the times.  One of the key elements of the book is a scathing, negative look at racism.  The majority of the book is about Huck Finn's progression and transformation on his own ideas and opinions about slavery and African Americans.  I believe that Twain was both ahead and stuck in his own time.  It is clear that in a post-Civil War era, Mark Twain wrote Jim's character in such a way to make him human and good to the readers.  He was a critic of racism, lynchings, etc.  However the book does use a lot of stereotypes that one could easily find offensive.  Jim is written in what many consider to be a "Sambo-like" character.  To me, this shows that Twain was unable (or choose not) to rise above the images and stereotypes of the day.  On one end he challenges racism, on the other, he confirms it...

So out of the blue, the publishers want to make the book more "school child" friendly.  Of course this move does not come without controversy. Its been called everything from censorship to "Political correctness run amok." Either way you look at it, it is interesting.  Correct me if I'm wrong, I don't believe there was any push from any certain group to make these changes, so I'm curious as to why these changes are coming... NOW...

I don't know.  I don't think this is censorship, but I'm not so sure it serves a purpose.  I guess I appreciate the effort, but why?  Why make this change?  No one asked for it, no one was saying anything... why start something arbitrarily?  I'm tempted to take a quote from Sarah Palin and say "thanks but no thanks!"

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Is this political correctness run amok?
Where are we as a society? Is it necessary to remove the "n-word" from literary classics?
Does changing it to "Slave" help/harm/ or make no difference on the impact of the book?
Is this censorship?  Should it be left alone?
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