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"I believe that Huckleberry Finn is one of the great masterpieces of the world," H.L. Mencken, an American journalist, said in 1913 while responding to Albert Bigelow Paine's biography of Mark Twain. In the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, one boy, Huck Finn, embarks on a journey to not only find himself, but to also help a black man, Jim, discover who he really is. This journey has been criticized throughout the ages due to the "discrimination" that Huck projects toward Jim. With his excessive use of the racial term "nigger", Twain has been deemed racist by many people. The book that "all modern American literature" spawned from has been read throughout high schools many times over, but some parents and students feel that it should be banned from required reading lists due to how Mark Twain depicted slavery during the time leading up to the Civil War. This depiction, though, can be viewed in both a dark and bright light. Due to its insight on real American life during the Pre-Civil War Era and its message that it spreads about friendship and character, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be banned in high school English classes.
According to Webster's Dictionary, censoring can be defined as "to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable." Censorship is a common term in the vocabulary of many protesters of Huck Finn. One passage in the novel that might be considered "censor worthy" would be when Sally, Tom Sawyer's aunt, asks Huck if anyone was hurt in a steamboat accident. Huck replies, "No'm. Killed a nigger," to which Sally replies, "Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt." This dialogue alone represents much of the mood that many had toward African Americans during that period. When Mark Twain wrote the novel, he wanted it to be as realistic as possible. By going deep into the South and studying dialect and history, Twain formed a foundation for his novel. This foundation, however, would lead to one of the most controversial books he ever wrote.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be banned in high school English classes. First and foremost, the banning of books in schools is against the right to free speech. Americans, have the right to read and believe whatever they want. Some say that its use of degrading language is a reason why it should be banned also. If this is the case, then virtually all books that are required to be read should be taken off the shelves due to their use of derogatory language. On the topic of Huck Finn being on the required reading list Kathy Monteiro stated that no other required novels use racial terms such as "honky" or "cracker" (Qtd. in Born to Troubleâ€¦). Truth be told, those terms have little to no effect on white people compared to the effect of "nigger" on black people. It's even difficult to find any book that uses those two words. Some protesters say that just because the book reflected the way of life at that time in American history it does not make it okay to have it in classrooms today. America can't allow itself to forget the past because if it does, history will repeat itself. As David Bradley said, "Reality hurts people," (Qtd. in Born to Troubleâ€¦). Huck Finn is historically accurate in the environment setup and in order to show history the truth must be told, and the truth is ugly.
In the world today there's all this talk about being "politically correct." If this world was completely politically correct, there would be nothing to stimulate the imagination. Minds would be only how the schools wanted them to be. Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua who said, "Good literature transforms the audience," understood that Huck Finn is a driving force when it comes to arousing one's emotions (Qtd. in Born to Troubleâ€¦). Even though there are many offensive racial slurs in the novel, one must remember that Mark Twain wrote the book as a satirical criticism of the racist mindset many Americans in the 1800's had. Throughout the entire novel, Huck Finn is growing and changing. In the beginning, he has the same view toward blacks as everyone else did, slaves that did all the work. But by the end, he has an excellent friendship with one and is even willing to "go to hell" for Jim. The friendship develops into one that a father and son would share. Jim has that fatherly attitude that wants the best for Huck and doesn't want to see him be injured in any way, while Huck would go to great lengths for Jim. This bond that they share, one that was considered ridiculous at the time, is a focal point when it comes to keeping this book in schools because it shows that if a white boy and a black slave can grow to care for each other, the rest of the world should be able to also.
All in all, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, even though it contains graphic language and depicts a harsh view of slavery, should not be banned in high school English classes. Mark Twain was aiming for realism throughout the book and he could only do this by writing about how life really was for slaves during the 1840s. The language that is used is nothing that high school students haven't heard or used before. Its excessive use of the word "nigger", though very offensive to some, was only used for realistic effect. If every novel that contained derogatory language was shunned and removed from high schools, there would barely be anything worth reading. Huck Finn was not written to "put down" blacks. There is a much deeper moral meaning to it. By giving Huck and Jim a father-son relationship and showing how Huck grows in character through his choices and actions, the novel shies away from the norms at the time. Its message is one of friendship and finding one's true self and if that's something that shouldn't be read in schools, does anyone know what is?