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Thread: New edition of 'Huck Finn' -- censored or sensitive?

  1. #1

    Thumbs up New edition of 'Huck Finn' -- censored or sensitive?

    New Edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' to lose the N-word.

    I thought I'd post this article for anybody interested to read and discuss. I won't offer my feelings on it directly, though anybody who knows me even vaguely probably has a good idea as to what my opinion is on the subject.

    A general summary: NewSouth Books is planning to publish a version of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that is devoid of words such as "nigger" and "injun," effectively marketing the book toward readers who might be more encouraged to read based on the absence of those terms.

    What are your feelings on this optional modification? Do you support it wholeheartedly? Do you think it's a travesty? Let us know!

  2. #2

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    I don't generally hold with having books censored, even when they use offensive terms.

    The point is, that people have got to start understanding that the story was written* when words like that were somewhat more acceptable than they are now. Use it as an opportunity to teach younger folks that most people don't use words like that anymore instead of getting upset about it.

    Are they going to go back and put marble undies on Michelangelo's David because his junk might offend someone? :P

    I understand that it's optional, but still. I'll personally stick with the original.

    *Not to mention the time period the book is set in.

  3. #3

    Angry This should not be.

    They have got to be kidding!

    Yes I read the book when I was a boy some 45 years ago, long before this political correctness began to modify our vocabulary, (shades of 1984 there, altering peoples' thoughts by changing {or dropping} the words in use).

    Mark Twain was criticized for corrupting the English language when the book was first published; some in the Eastern States, wanted it banned or at least placed on a restricted reading list for children. The main points of contention were the vernacular and spelling of the characters’ dialogue, not the word “nigger”. But the book was an accurate rendering of the way most people of that age, class and region spoke at the time.

    Removing and replacing the "nigger" word will not stop someone being a racist and most of us who are not, (even little boys enjoying a classic), would not be made into a racist, by reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    I wish the grown ups, would stop imposing their adult mind sets onto the children’s world of fun and imagination.

    I loved that book as a child and I hope that if this new edition is produced, that no one buys it!
    Last edited by johnyABinAUS; 05-Jan-2011 at 23:30. Reason: additonal text

  4. #4

    Default

    It's a brilliant book. Twain was not one to mince words and one of the novel's themes was the folly of racism. I think the removal of "nigger" from the book undercuts that theme. "Slave" is obviously not a synonym. Jim may be an escaped slave but to the characters in the book, his niggerness is not dependent on his status as a slave, it's intrinsic and even beyond the simple color of his skin. It's the word that describes him as a less than human creature which justifies all his bad treatment. To reduce that word to something neutral like "slave" misses the point entirely.

    It's supposed to make us uncomfortable. It doesn't do so in the same way as it did at the time it was printed but it still manages that very well.

  5. #5
    Butterfly Mage

    Default

    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the "n" word is about as hateful a racial slur as they come. On the other hand, that's what Mark Twain actually wrote.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
    IIt's the word that describes him as a less than human creature which justifies all his bad treatment. To reduce that word to something neutral like "slave" misses the point entirely.
    Exemplified in the famous moment when a steamboat wrecks and one character asks if anyone was hurt. The reply? "No'm, killed a nigger."

    I agree with you entirely, Trevor--Twain's purpose was bitterly satirical, at least in part. If readers do not understand the utter contempt which most of Huck's society felt for slaves, Huck's moral transformation and decision to go to hell if that's what it takes to save Jim will be rendered meaningless. Of course "nigger" is a deeply hateful word, but Twain had a distinct artistic purpose in mind, and chose specific words for specific reasons. We can't simply bowdlerise novels because they use language we find offensive, or because they (apparently) put forward views with which we disagree. It is a discredit to the author, and a disservice to the people reading the book.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly Mage View Post
    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, the "n" word is about as hateful a racial slur as they come. On the other hand, that's what Mark Twain actually wrote.
    Uh... that's the point? The word is extremely offensive, and like Trevor said, the offensiveness of the word nigger is what the other characters see him as, not just a slave. In fact, children may misconstrue the word slave to mean that the people are rude to him solely because he was a slave, and not even realise that there is racism going on. They would be missing out on a vital part of North American history. Pretending it never happened won't make it go away, you know.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zephiel View Post
    Pretending it never happened won't make it go away, you know.
    Quite true.

    I really think it's just a lot of people completely missing the point of the story.

    But there are entire 'watchdog' groups that complain about everything that might even remotely be offensive.

  9. #9

    Default

    Well, they can go ahead and censor it -- my kids will read the original, and they'll get to be the smart alecs who get to break the truth to the rest of the class. XP

  10. #10

    Thumbs down bullshit

    "those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it"

    if you don't have the guts to read the book the way mark twain wrote it, you probably just shouldn't read it at all. and in the meantime, you should be ashamed of yourself for not being able to face the cruel realities of our country's past.

    there's no excuse for censorship.

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