Huck Finn Is Not A Racist Novel

964 words - 4 pages

There is a major argument among literary critics whether Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is or is not a racist novel. The question boils down to the depiction of Jim, the black slave, and to the way he is treated by Huck and others. In the 1950s the effort to banish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from required classroom reading lists came publicly to the floor again, not chiefly on the grounds that its depiction of black characters and the use of the word “nigger” were demeaning to African-American students. Many feel that Twain uses the word too loosely. However, many believe that Huck Finn should be taught in schools on the grounds that the novel’s racist theme accurately depicted what life was like for a slave in pre- Civil War times.

Opponents of Huck Finn contend that literary censorship is acceptable. But is not censorship a violation of the first amendment? In places such as Philadelphia and New York City, they have adapted a new version which not only tones down the violence and dialects, but cuts all passages demeaning to African Americans. In today’s hypersensitive society, wouldn’t that be the entire book? It would be impossible to write a novel that did not offend at least one demographic. Being politically correct at the expense of a broadened mindset is simply not worth the sacrifice.

There are mixed feelings regarding Huck Finn being taught in elementary schools. On one hand, its themes might be a little too mature for a child’s delicate psyche, confusing them on what is right or wrong. At the same time, one could argue that teaching it early in development allows adolescents to see the evils of slavery, so any potential prejudice can be abolished at a young age, thus reducing the number of hate crimes in America’s already-too violent society.

It is necessary to analyze the way white characters treat Jim throughout the book. Note that what the author felt is not the way most characters act around Jim, and his feelings are probably only shown through Huck. In the South during that period, black people were treated as less than humans, and Twain needed to portray this. The examples of the way Jim is denigrated: by being locked up, having to hide his face in the daytime and how he is generally derided, all examples which are necessary for historical accuracy. So, Mark Twain had to display Jim’s treatment in this manner, even if it was not the way he felt.

Huck, however, does not treat Jim as most whites do. Huck looks at Jim as a friend, and by the end of their journey, disagrees with society's notion that blacks are inferior. There are two main examples of this in the story. The first one is where Huck is disgusted by Jim's plans to steal his own children, who are "someone else's property." While Huck is still...

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