Mark Twain Censorship Essay Research Paper The

Mark Twain Censorship Essay, Research Paper The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book written by Mark Twain. This book has been scrutinized, censored, and argued over since it s publication.

Mark Twain Censorship Essay, Research Paper

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a book written by Mark Twain.

This book has been scrutinized, censored, and argued over since it s publication.

There are many ways to look at Huckleberry Finn. One can look at it as a

derogatory book, focusing on the stereotyping of Negroes and the excessive use

of offensive language. Or one can see it as merely a book reflecting the times it

was written in and the language, attitude, and cultures of that time. To

understand this book, we must look at the times it was written in and the man

that wrote it.

Mark Twain was Born Samuel Langhorn Clemens, in 1835 in Florida,

Missouri. At about the age of four, his family moved to the Mississippi river

town of Hannibal, Missouri. As a child he was surrounded by the slave culture.

This story, found in Mark Twain at Your Fingertips shows us how his mother

behaved toward the slaves.

We had a little slave boy…there in Hannibal…He was a cheery spirit, innocent

and gentle, and the noisiest creature that ever was, perhaps. All day long he was

singing, whistling, yelling, whooping, laughing-it was maddening…

(Harnsberger 321)

His mother s obvious care for Negroes would never have allowed her to

have viewed a minstrel show. Minstrel shows of the time featured blacks as

child-like, idiotic tools for mere entertainment. Eventually Twain tricked his

mother into viewing one such show. This story was also told in Mark Twain at

Your Fingertips.

Like my mother, Aunt Betsy Smith had never seen a Negro show. She and my

mother were very much alive; their age counted for nothing; they age counted for

nothing; they were fond of excitement…


Surely Twain grew up a proper young man with a generous regard for all

persons. Many aspects of his life show him with this attitude. One of his more

famous quotations include, In the case of the Negro… The majority of us do not like

his features, or his color, and we forget to notice that his heart is often a damned sight

better than ours (322). This was a reflection of his wife Clara. None of Twain s

personal statements were derogatory to Negroes, at least not any in print. His

statements were reserved for his novels.

The book, The Art, Humor, and Humanity of Mark Twain, states that

Mark Twain wrote in six stages of humor, pages 186-190 describe these stages.

The first stages of his development can be categorized as exaggeration. This

type of exaggeration was taken and honed from frontier tall tales, and was most

evident in his book Roughing It, written in 1870.

The Gilded Age published in 1871, illustrates the lapse into his second

form of writing. Exaggeration evolved into satire. His satire was blithe and gay

with no overwhelming sense of deep meaning. The satire used in The Gilded

Age was so elevated that most people did not understand it s humor. Since the

humor was above most people s heads they did not see it as a very good book.

Although, they did think it had great historical context.

While The Gilded Age was hailed as a historical novel, Twain was

unhappy with its reception. He therefore moved into his third form of humor,

used in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer(1816) and The Adventures of

Huckleberry Finn(1884). Twain had moved into dramatic irony. This was used

mainly against the main characters. This type of humor is similar to when one

person laughs at another s oddities of personality, because they have a view that

the person does not. We get such a view of Tom and Huckleberry.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur s Court ushers in the fourth stage of

Twainian humor. This humor was pure and simple ridicule. He wanted to

shake his fist at all that is tyrannical including; war, aristocracy, and injustice in

general. To bring about the realization of these attitudes he maked the offenders

as ridiculous as possible to show us their simple stupidities. Pudd nhead

Wilson(1892) is another example of ridicule for a good cause. The quotation

April 1 This is the day on which we are reminded of what we are on the other three

hundred and sixty-four (Brashear,Rodney190), shows that in humor we are more

open to our faults.

In the fifth stage of his humor Twain began to show more precise feeling.

As his buffoonery declined his literary value increased. Although, he could not

shake the humor that made him world famous his work became more serious.

His piece Joan of Arc(1895) brought this period in. The tone of his writing had

changed and metamorphasized into a tender, descriptive meilleur that contains

and overall sense of serenity.

The sixth and final stage that Twain wrote in began Around the time of

his wife, Clara s death. Her death embittered Twain and for the rest of his life

he was an angry man. His writings reflected the changes in his life. After Clara s

death his words, though still humorous, became dark. Twain also became bitter

with world events. The Mysterious Stranger(1898) was the embodiment of this

time in Twain s life.

Twain Lived during one of the most tumultuous times in American

history. Very soon after America became a nation it was torn apart by the Civil

War. At a time where all the norms in the nation were questioned Twain was

writing and thriving. In a society that could have cast him out for his personal

beliefs Twain lived a life that people saw as moral.

Mark Twain s book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses the

derogatory term for Negro over 200 times. Many see this as the main point of

the book. But the main point of the story is a boy overcoming the societal norms

of slavery and giving in to his subconscious(read heart) to do the right thing.

The book s main downfall was the stereotyping of Negroes of the time period.

Not only were Negroes stereotyped in literature but also in everyday

humor. Mark Twain Laughing gives an account of an anecdote told by Twain.

A colored cook was just about to send the roast into the dining room when his

sweetheart came to see him. The roast was a rare, juicy goose, and the girl cast

longing glances at it. Temptation overcame the poor cook. He cut off one of the

legs and gave… (Twain 47).

These characteristics portray Negroes as mere idiot savants that are only given to

the baser instincts in life. This attitude is continued in Twain s Huckleberry

Finn. The character, Jim, is a slave. His attempt to find freedom is hampered

when the run away, Huckleberry Finn accidentally intercedes him. There is a

moral struggle in Huck as he decides whether or not to return Jim to his

mistress. There are many examples in Huckleberry Finn displaying the general

attitude toward Negroes of the time. A few examples include,

Doan hurt me-don t! I hain t ever done no harm to a ghos . I alwuz liked dead

people, en done all I could for em. You go en git in de river ag in, whah you

b longs, en doan do nuffin to Ole Jim, at uz alwuz yo fren (Lettis 36)


Yes. You know that one-laigged nigger dat b longs to old Misto Bradish? Well,

he sot up a bank en say anybody dat put in a dollar would git fo dollars mo at de

en er de year. Well all de niggers went in , but dey didn t have much

(Twain 50).

Both of these passages demonstrate the generic belief of Negroes attitudes of the


These attitudes toward Negroes have been disputed since the books

publication. It was banned from the Concordia library almost as soon as it was

released. A major debate has risen because of the content of this book. The San

Francisco Examiner wrote of one school s debate in October of 1995. The

African American Parent Coalition joined together to remove Huckleberry Finn

from the school s required reading list. They used the previous arguments to

back up their side. They did not want it banned but to give the students an

alternative choice. The book would still be available, it would merely be


The Yale Daily News documents another attempt at censorship in

March of 1995. Students in a New Haven, Connecticut middle school. School

Board members decided to remove the book from the reading list after its

divisive issues began to upset parents. The book will remain in the library and

in the five other middle schools in the town. This article states that Huckleberry

Finn is one of the ten top disputed books in the country.

Huckleberry Finn s social issues have polarized the nation. There are

many choices in todays society. The book can be banned, it can be censored, the

curriculum can change, or we can continue to teach the book as it is. There are

many sides to the issue of the racial stereotyping and offensive language

contained in Huckleberry Finn. Twain was an author raised around slavery and

the Civil War. During a time when the attitudes of a nation were changing

dramatically, Twain wrote and prospered. His heritage brought him up as a

decent man. His changing personality was evident in his writing as it evolved

into six themes. Over his life Twain evoked many disputed about his work and

his attitudes. The main question that must be asked of Twain is what his motive

were when he wrote Huckleberry Finn and depicted Jim as the general

bumbling Niger .

1.Harnsberger, Caroline Thomas. Mark Twain at Your Fingertips. pub.1948

byBeechcourt Press, New York. pps.321,270,322

2.Brashear, Minnie M.,Rodney, Robert M.The Art, Humor, and Humanity of Mark

Twain. pub.1959 by University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma. pps.190

3.Twain, Mark.Mark Twain by University of Tennessee Press,


4.Lettis, Richard.Huck Finn and His by the Macmillan Company, New


5.Twain, Mark.The Adventures of Huckelberry by Harper & Brothers

Publishers, New York.pps.50

6.Grosso, Chris City Middle School Drops Huck Finn .Yale Daily News.March 20,


7.Beckett, Jamie San Jose Parents Group Want Book Optional .San Francisco

Examiner.October 17.1995

Mark Twain, To Teach or To Censor

I.Mark Twain-(1835-1910)

A.Born Samuel Langhorn Clemens

B.Missouri boyhood, Florida and Hannibal

C.Slave culture

II.Stages of humor

A.Exaggeration:1857-1870,Roughing It

B.Satirical:1871-1875,The Gilded Age

C.Dramatic Irony:1876-1884,Huck Finn

D.Ridicule:1885-1894,Connecticut Yankee

E.Decline in Buffoonery:1895-1902,Joan of Arc

F.Dark Humor:1902-1910,The Mysterious Stranger


A.Civil War


IV.Huckleberry Finn- one of the top ten most disputed books in the country


1.Derogatory language

2.Racial stereotyping


1.San Jose

2.New Haven