Friday, January 7, 2011

The "N-Word" and Mark Twain

This is getting to be old news, but I've yet to really decide how I feel on the matter.  The Afterword is telling of a new edition of Huck Finn that will be published with "slave" in place of "nigger"... all 219 times.  Also on the chopping block is the word "injun" to be replaced with "slave" as well.

I can see both sides as to why the words should be replaced and why they should be kept the same.  Ultimately I think my feelings lie in the purist realm of, "leave it alone."  Anything else will be nothing more than an affectation of politically correct semantics which would go against the reality Twain was trying to write about.  Or at least that is how I think I feel.

Any one else have thoughts on the matter?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is all about limiting Free Speech. After all, censorship is everywhere. The gov’t (and their big business cronies) censor free speech, shut down dissent and ban the book “America Deceived II”. Free speech for all, especially Mark Twain.
Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:
http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-000190526

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I am really annoyed by this. I think they should leave his book alone and actually use it for a "teaching moment". To pretend people didn't speak that way in the time and place of Huckleberry Finn is just ridiculous.

Chad Hull said...

Anon--I don't know where to start...

Nicole--I think we're on the same page. It's a bit like certain groups of people who deny the existence of the Holocaust: it's terrible and it happened and there is no fixing it or making things better.

There are plenty of topics in books that don't resonate well with me; I don't read them. I think this topic will see a lot more discussion in the publishing world as this edition gets closer to release.

It's just amazing to me: nigger, injun slave. Yeah, they're all the same thing...

Marion said...

I'm in the leave-it-as-it-is camp. Twain was a product of his time. More importantly, he was writing at a time in history and accurately reflecting part of society. This is not changing language to spare's people's feelings; it's a cover-up.

Connie Willis wrote a comic short story called "Ado," about a high school attempting to put on a Shakespeare production. I recommend it as a comment on this very issue.