, Research Paper
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is not an appropriate book for schools because of the racism and bad morals that it promotes. Depending on the reader the racism could possibly be overlooked as a reason for the book to be banned. This is not the only problem with the book though, the rest of the ideas which Twain has satirized are not appropriate for school curriculum. I do not find it necessary to read about people being cruel to each other, a boy being beat by his father, and among other things having a slave being referred to as a nigger throughout the entire book. Huckleberry Finn has been described as “a matchless satire on racism, bigotry, and property rights in human beings.” (Simmons 1)
When Huck Finn was written the word nigger was not a word people would avoid using. It was just the common way of referring to a slave. Just because the book reflects the way of life at this time in American history it does not make it okay to have it in our classrooms. Some may say that Jim never showed any sign of emotion from being called a “nigger” but there is no evidence of Jim being upset or not caring so this is not a valid argument. Just because the characters in the book don’t show emotion from being called this word doesn’t mean that it won’t have an affect on the readers. It would probably be very difficult for an African-American student to have to read this book in a classroom where they are among mostly white students.
Another topic dealing with Jim is the slave issue. Twain makes a society that accepts slavery seem okay. Jim is always referred to as a piece of property rather than a human being. When Aunt Sally inquires of what took her nephew so long in arriving Huck, who is pretending to be Tom, says a cylinder-head blew out. She then asks if anybody was hurt and Huck responds “No’m. Killed a nigger.” This statement is evidence that the white people didn’t treat African-American’s as people. When Jim assists the doctor in helping Jim the doctor has Jim captured while he is asleep. When they take him back to the farm where he escaped he is chained up and locked in a cell. The doctor says that Jim was a “kind nigger that is worth a thousand dollars-and kind treatment, too.” Instead of taking away a few of the chains, the people only agree to stop cussing at him since he did such a good job in helping.
Twain’s “satirical observations concerning human folly and social injustice and which, during his lifetime, led to widespread denunciation of his works as coarse and improper.” (Boorstin 1) Throughout the book Huckleberry participates in helping in conning people out of their money, lying to just about everybody he comes in contact with, and other activities which appear to be okay according to Twain. It seems that Mark Twain made everything that was bad seem ok and everything that promoted good was bad or just showed people’s ignorance. Miss Watson tells Huck that if he doesn’t change his ways then he won’t go to heaven. Huck has come to believe that Miss Watson will be in heaven so he decides that he “couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it.” Other times in the novel when people are at religious gatherings they all give money to people who get up and tell about their experiences. The people aren’t smart enough to realize they are being conned out of their money so Twain puts the blame on religious belief rather than the ignorance of the individual.
Throughout the novel Huck is supposedly learning lessons from his experiences. He sees his friend Buck get shot because of a feud between two families that has lasted for who knows how long, he witnesses the town drunk Boggs get shot by an impatient Sherburn, and most of all the true and caring side of Jim. In the end of the novel when Huck teams up with Tom he seems to forget all of what he has learned. Huck allows Tom to do cruel things to Jim for the sake of making Jim’s escape fantastic and memorable. This goes against what he said when he played the trick on Jim while on the raft and promised that he “wouldn’t do no more mean tricks, and I wouldn’t done that one if I’d ‘a’ knowed it would make him feel that way.” Twain’s last few chapters ruin the novel because he makes it appear as though it “didn’t matter how much of an impact the experiences had on Huck’s life prior to the end, he still would have forgotten what he had learned.” (Seldeen 3)
Huck Finn will never be appropriate for school curriculum. Until the ways of southern life in American history are accepted I don’t think that Huck Finn should ever be accepted into our curriculum. There is really no purpose in reading the book other than to analyze Twain’s satirical look at the evils of society, which we don’t want to admit to ourselves, and how a boy can go through life and see society at its lowest then in the end not be affected by it at all.
Boorstin, Daniel J., and Parshall, Gerald. “History’s Hidden Turning Points.” U.S. News
and World Report April 22, 1991: SIRS Researcher. CD-Rom. Fall 1997
Seldeen, Ken. http://members.xoom.com//kenpage/huck/huck.htm
Simmons, John S. “School Censorship: No respite in sight” Forum 14 Winter 1996/1997:
SIRS Researcher. CD-Rom Fall 1997