Monday, January 10, 2011

My Two Cents On Huck Finn

I've read many op-ed pieces recently about the re-editing done by a college professor on Mark Twain's classic, Huckleberry Finn. In case you've been living in a cave and haven't heard about this, the gist of it all is that the n...... word is used over 200 times in the book. It's a cruel and despicable word that the majority of people today will not use. They don't want their children to hear it or use it either. And rightly so.

But Mark Twain did not write his story in the 21st century. He wrote it in the 19th century when the word was commonplace. He wrote the story about a boy and a runaway slave which has become a classic in children's literature. A book that adults read again. Our Kansas City newspaper's editorial today made a good point. The writer said that Mark Twain chose his words carefully. Yes, Jim was a slave, which is the word now being substituted in the new version, but in the time and place of this story he was also known as the n......... word. The book defines American society at the time, and it also shows how Jim moves from being the slave who was called n......... to becoming a man. It's an essential part of the story.

A worthy quote from the editorial is " is important to note that if we do not confront life's unpleasantries, it can be far worse than painful." He goes on to say "Author Mark Twain.s work perfectly captured an era. If we change his words, we fail to fully understand how Huck changed, and we lose a sense of how our own country has changed since the days before the Civil War."

I am against changing anything in Mark Twain's book. Children today should read it as it was written. I do, however, think that parents can and should sit down with a child and talk about the word used, about the times when it was written and how things have changed. Let them understand this before they read the book, and they'll have a better sense of the need for other changes and the great amount of time it takes to achieve them.

What happened before our time cannot be changed. It's history and should not attempt to make it something it wasn't. Nor should we take it upon ourselves to change the words of another author. If it happens once, it can only continue, and that, to me, would be a tragedy.

If you would like to read the Kansas City Star editorial, go to

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