A Misunderstanding Case Study
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The fact that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a fictional book, has caused such an outcry from certain people is downright ridiculous…although somewhat understandable. Those who believe the word nigger is an unacceptable insult in every circumstance are completely narrow minded and stubborn because they are choosing to associate “nigger” with the worst type of connotation instead of emerging from David Foster Wallace’s “water” and viewing “nigger” as perhaps a perfectly acceptable term used to describe African Americans from the 19th century, the time period of the book, to hundreds of years before. Others, who although understand that “nigger” was used appropriately, still believe it is racist due to how it exemplifies the racist ideals of the antebellum South.
Twain is, quite contradictively, mocking the South, but in a subliminal way so as to not to provoke the already bitter Southerners. It is acceptable, however, for people to have their own opinions, that is fine. If one does not wish to be involved with Huckleberry Finn, that person can easily excuse themselves and not participate. There is no need to subjugate others to the lack of American culture by the editing or removal of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
“Nigger” came from Spanish and Portuguese descent as a perfectly neutral word intended to describe. Over time the words negro and niger, both of which mean black, transformed into “nigger,” and was used to categorize African Americans due to their skin color, just as caucasians are categorized as whites. Over time from when Africans arrived in America, the usage of “nigger” increased until eventually it was an accepted term by everyone, blacks included. That is ever so true today, where African Americans can, as said in source E, “fly it like a dirt flag” and can “spill it into the ether like sewage,” then can turn around and play the race card on the nearest person, as long as they are not black of course, because it is insultive.
Since the word itself, just like all words, does not have a connotation, the insultive side comes from others. In fact, David Bradley, in source B, did not even know that “nigger” was a bad word until it was associated with pain from his ruthless classmates. How other people say it, when they say it, why they say it, what they do when they say it, all contribute to why people fear the word nigger. But because of the harshness of slavery, the unbelievableness of the KKK, the experience of Bradley on the playground, people despise the word. Since “nigger” is perceived as a terrible word by some, it is the reality of others that in fact it is, despite even if collectively, everyone could somehow instantly drop the past, the word would lose its meaning and would render it useless to the effects of racism and discrimination. “I don’t take no stock in dead people,” said Huck, and neither should we.
The exception to that rule, of course, is Twain because he will always be considered one of the most ingenious authors of all time not only for his perfection of realism but also for his morally sound themes portrayed through ingeniously camouflage mockery of the South. From being born and raised in the South, Twain was all the well accustomed to traditional southern beliefs. As seen in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain writes in more of a derogatory manner and makes Tom a ruthless, evil kid who has no moral code. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in contrast, is from the view of Huck, who is not considered racist, and when he is, it’s only because he is not used to helping a slave, which was in no way acceptable during that time period. William Styron in source A even goes as far as stating that many people, blacks included, found no racism in the book at all.
Twain has Huck progress towards the realization that Jim is a regular human, and even goes as far as to have Huck recognize Jim as a friend. For the people who read of this when the book was first distributed, Twain’s story must have stirred inside people’s hearts and allowed people to be more accepting of African Americans during the time by instilling the lesson of equality through a story of friendship. Source G explains that the novel took a terrible turn when Tom was reintroduced into the story because Tom embodied the irrationality and unnecessariness of the South. Tom, like the South, believed in slavery and he only agreed to help Jim because it would be going against the civil law oppressed on him. When Tom created a huge plan that was not needed, which correlates to the South and they do not need to be suppressing the African Americans so intently. By making Tom’s escape plan such an exaggeration, Twain was able to satirize the South and its many flaws.
But that is a matter of opinion, as is almost everything. If somebody wants to be incorrigible, so be it. There are those that will refute anything so as to not stray from the social norm. To those people: good luck. In order to be able to properly form one’s own opinions, one must step outside normality and get comfortable enough to be able to listen to others ideas. Then, and only then, can someone properly refute and disagree with other ideas. Although there is in fact, a certain degree of racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jane Smiley in source F talks of the deeper racism in the novel and how it is evident by how little Huck and Tom care for Jim. The thing is, Tom and Huck are two entirely different people who fall on radically opposite sides of the moral spectrum.
While Tom only helps Jim in the end of the book so to be unorthodox, Huck helps Jim from the very beginning and accepts Jim as his friend instead of turning Jim in at the multiple chances offered. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but those opinions need to be supported in some way, or else it is blind faith. That being said, if somebody still can not abstain from disliking the book, do not read it. If somebody is so highly offended by the terminology of the past that is mentioned hundreds of times, do not read it. Because for those who do want to read it, they are being deprived of an American icon that if read correctly, can teach important moral lessons that might in fact lead to an end of racism. Those who want to edit The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by taking out all the uses of “nigger” and replace them with something else need to understand that this is an adult book intended for those who can think. There is no need for euphemism to water down the content of this book.
People should stop trying to change The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Instead, look inward, because people and their prejudices are what is slowly destroying the great works of Twain. If everyone took the lessons from his book and applied them, nobody would be in disagreement. Twain needs to stop being criticized, he did not foresee the effects of a single word. So pity Twain and his novel, for it is one of, if not the greatest works in literature will be torn in two by the misunderstanding of this generation.