Huck Finn Immoral Racist Essay, Research Paper
Mark Twain s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has been attacked and banned since it was first published. It has been accused of being immoral and racist. It was removed from several Library s, including the Brooklyn Public Library in 1905, and several libraries in Denver, Omaha, and Worcester in 1907. The reasons for this, were, because of Twain s use of vernacular dialect from the time and place in which he was writing about, and because of it being seen as an immoral book. Other attacks on the novel during its history have been because of it being seen as racist. The reasons for this is people s lack of understanding of Twain s use of satire.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has been attacked
and banned since it was first published. It has been accused of being both
immoral and racist.
In 1905 The Brooklyn Public Library removed The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn from the children’s room because Huck was a liar who “not
only itched, but scratched,” was dirty, used terrible grammar, and “said ’sweat’
when he should have said ‘perspiration’ . This is an example of what people
thought about the use of “low language” at the time. Twain’s use of vernacular
dialect from that particular time period and geographical region, and of his use of bad grammar, typical of an uneducated child like Huck, were seen as trashy, low class, and “suitable only for the slums.
Along with being attacked for its use of “low language,” Huck Finn has
been seen as immoral. In 1907 libraries in Denver, Omaha, and Worcester had
removed the book because Huck and Tom were bad role models. The reasons
for this is because the book shows theft and irreverence. In the novel, Huck
goes on shore and borrows food and doesn t get punished for this. Now, at the
time this was very offensive to most people. In other, uncontroversial novels
during that time, you would never read about someone stealing and not having
to face the consequences, whether it be by the law of by God. The novel shows
irreverence when Huck decides to oppose the dictates of society and go to hell
for the sake of his friendship with Jim, All right, then, I ll go to hell. (Twain p.180)
Over the years, most of the reasons for the novel being banned and
attacked were no longer pertinent. The times had changed and the low
language and irreverence became more acceptable in literature. But, in 1957
the NAACP began an indictment against Huck Finn. They charged that the
novel contained racial slurs and belittling racial designations. This started a chain reaction of attacks on the novel for the extensive use of the word nigger (200 times) and the portrayal of blacks that some people consider stereotypical and demeaning. One of the most candid opponents of Huck Finn in the 1980 s was John Wallace. He wrote in a 1982 Washington Post editorial:
The reading aloud of Huck Finn in our classrooms is humiliating and
insulting to black students. It contributes to their feelings of low self-esteem and to the white student s disrespect for black people….For the past forty years, black families have trekked to schools in numerous districts through out the county to say, This book is not good for our children only to be turned away by insensitive and often unwittingly racist teachers and administrators who respond, This book is a classic.
In 1995, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a large controversy started, when
several African American high school students complained to their parents about
having to read Huck Finn in class because of the uses of the word nigger. In
response to parental complaints, in November 1996, a group of parents from the
Cherry Hill Minority Civic Association presented a formal Citizen s Request for
Reconsideration of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the Board of
Education, claiming that the prejudicial effect of the racial characterizations
outweigh any literary value that the book might have. What came out of the
meeting was an understanding that nobody wanted to ban the book, instead, we
want a solution.
The solution was that the curriculum would be rewritten, and all the
Cherry Hill teachers who wished to teach the novel in the future, would be
required to attend a one-day workshop given by Villanova professors. This
workshop would give the teachers historical, cultural, and literary resources to
be able to fully understand the book the way it was meant to be understood.
The curriculum the school developed, was one that would teach highschool
juniors Huck Finn in a six-week unit that addressed slaver, racism and even
discuss the controversy over the book itself. …you took the book and made it
into a positive thing, a learning tool. I want to congratulate the board on what we believe is a monumental step. Also the new curriculum will include other writings by African American writers, such as Frederick Douglas, and poets such as Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes.
The attacks on this novel are because of people s lack of understanding
of Twain s style. Twain used satire to attack slavery and the lack of civil rights for freed slaves. Not only is it not racist, it is the greatest anti-racist novel by an American writer. Twain is merely portraying by way of Jim, a very realistic slave raised in the South during that time period. To say that Twain is racist because of his desire for historical accuracy is absurd. Many times throughout the novel Huck comes very close to rationalizing Jim’s slavery. However, he is never able to see a reason why this man who has become one of his only friends, should be a slave. Through this internal struggle, Twain expresses his opinions of the absurdity of slavery and the importance of following one’s personal conscience before the laws of society.
Since it was published, The Adventures of Huck Finn, has been attacked
and banned for reasons like, low language , showing bad morals, and being
racist. But, throughout the novel Twain brings out the ugliness of society and
causes the reader to maybe challenge his/her previous ideas about how society
is and should be. Some people just don t notice or maybe even refuse to notice
how Twain challenges slavery and choose to only see what s on the surface, racism.