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Why The Censorship?

Racism, slang, graphic ideas; when these things coincide with classic American literature what happens? The best example of this is in a novel written by Mark Twain. The novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been an open dispute on this topic for decades. In some instances it has been called the greatest classic of American literature. In others it has been called no more that trailer trash garbage. When does a novel cross the line and become censored? This has been the topic of school curriculum since the beginning of the 19th century. Who decides what s right and what s wrong ? When is it O.K. for the minority to go against the majority?

In this novel, the author repeatedly refers to African Americans as niggers. Such as in the passage “I won t let no runaway niggers get by me if I can help it.” Pg. 95. There are also other forms of racism in the novel such as that toward the Native America, as shown by the passage “I got an old tin lamp and an iron ring, and went out in the woods and rubbed and rubbed till I sweat like an Injun.” Pg. 23. These, as well as many other passages of the novel, have offended the African American and native American races over the years, especially in more modern times. Children all across America have chosen to boycott this novel for that reason alone. The truth is that when Mark Twain wrote these “terrible racist passages” by today s standard, they where completely normal and non-derogatory during his time. It has been argued that he did not use these words to offend people of color, but only to give a true representation of his time.

Mark Twain also tends to use slang in his writing. This is shown when Jim replies after being asked about a raft, “Oh, my lordy. Lordy! Raf ? Dey ain no Raf no mo ; she done broke loose en gone!-en here we is!” Pg. 75. As you can see he tends to use a way of dialect that at times can be hard to follow. Many people have argued that this is no way to show our children how to speak. They have said that this is a bad role model for our youths, and therefore cannot be allowed as part of the curriculum. This sort of dialogue is good for our children because it shows them just how poorly educated the blacks of the south where at the turn of the century. It also makes it much more realistic and challenges youths to not just to read the words, but to understand the novel.

Another controversial portion of the novel is it s use of graphic ideas and images. One example of this is when Huck is pretending to be murdered, and he says:

Well, last I pulled out some of my hair, and blooded the ax good, and stuck it on the back side, and slung the ax in the corner. Then I took up the butchered pig and held him to my breast with my jacket (so he couldn t drip) till I got a good piece below the house and then dumped him into the river. Pg. 41

This is just one example of the graphic content in this novel. Many have said that this is too much for children to be reading, that it puts bad ideas into their heads. This same point has also been argued recently related to the movie industry. Now, all movies are required to have a content rating. The truth is that no high school kid is going to have nightmares about some dead pig just because he read it in a book. If anything, this helps prepare high school students for the reality of life and dosn t try to keep them sheltered.

As you can see, there are cases of many different novels where parents have become overprotective and tried to censor these novels from being taught to high school kids. Many of these novels have been taken out of the curriculum due to censorship of their content. This is not fair to the authors and it s not fair to the students. This novel is a prime example of poor censorship. If a book has earned the right to be judged a classic than it should be awarded the stature of a classic regardless of its treatment of race or offensive language. If anything, this novel reflects how much less racist our society is today. As such, it should be applauded, not censored.

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