The purpose of this project is to celebrate Samuel L. Clemens' life in Redding, Connecticut by documenting and showcasing his time here in multiple formats both online and offline. Your donations & site sponsorships will help me dedicate more time to these projects and allow me to get them online sooner.

Thursday, January 6

Huckleberry Finn


Englehart's cartoon says it best. This was posted in the Hartford Courant on January 7th, 2011.

I've posted this elsewhere but it's worthy to note here as well.

The new book by Al Gribben is attempting to soften Twain's version of Huck Finn by substituting certain words like: "slave" for "nigger" and "Indian" for "Injun." The thought being that more schools will use it if those "hate words" are removed.

The issue is that Twain used those words for a reason. He was holding a mirror up to society... post-civil war society ... and shouting "THIS IS WRONG!"

As Twain Scholar Dr. Cindy Lovell notes:
"In "Huck Finn" Twain pokes us with a sharp stick, makes us squirm, makes us highly uncomfortable. And it's effective."

From Twain himself:

"In those old slave-holding days the whole community was agreed as to one thing--the awful sacredness of slave property.

To help steal a horse or a cow was a low crime, but to help a hunted slave, or feed him or shelter him, or hide him, or comfort him, in his troubles, his terrors, his despair, or hesitate to promptly to betray him to the slave-catcher when opportunity offered was a much baser crime, & carried with it a stain, a moral smirch which nothing could wipe away.

That this sentiment should exist among slave-owners is comprehensible-- there were good commercial reasons for it-- but that it should exist & did exist among the paupers, the loafers the tag-rag & bobtail of the community, & in a passionate & uncompromising form, is not in our remote day realizable.

It seemed natural enough to me then; natural enough that Huck & his father the worthless loafer should feel it & approve it, though it seems now absurd.

It shows that that strange thing, the conscience--the unerring monitor--can be trained to approve any wild thing you want it to approve if you begin its education early & stick to it."

-Mark Twain's Notebook #35 (reprinted in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Univ. of California Press, 2003)

Twain was not a racist.
Anyone who believes Twain was a racist has not done their homework:

"We have ground the manhood out of them, & the shame is ours, not theirs, & we should pay for it”
(Mark Twain letter to Francis Wayland, 24 December, 1885)


And if that doesn't sway your opinion... think of it this way:

Where do we go from here? Should we edit the story of Abraham next?

"Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the slaves born in his house..."

to

"Then Abraham took his son Ishmael and all the "helpers" born in his house..."


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