The ongoing Debate of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

January 14, 2011
By lgulick BRONZE, Viginia Beach, Virginia
lgulick BRONZE, Viginia Beach, Virginia
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

In the discussions of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one controversial issue has been whether it should be taught in schools. On the one hand, critics argue it should be taught in schools in order for students to understand the cultural separation and segregation in the study of American literature(anonymous 2). On the other hand, critics contend that the book should not be taught in school because of the difficulty of exploring the novel and harsh prejudice. Others illustrate the controversy over Twain’s treatment of race. Twain used the n-word in his novel which offended many readers; the uses of this word causes people to not want the book to be taught in school. In the novel Huck says, “It was according to the old saying ‘give a nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell’” (Twain 67). Twain also sometimes has Jim put in situations that put down black intelligence. Another scenario Twain brings into the novel is his mockery of Jim’s superstitions. Many people believe that Twain is racist in is novel but I believe that he is showing how people acted towards blacks in that era. My own view is that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be taught in the classroom.
The novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be taught in the classroom because the novel helps us to understand the views of race and society during the era the novel was written. In the article “The Nigger Huck: Race, Identity, and the Teaching of Huckleberry Finn” John Alberti claims Huckleberry Finn can be used to demonstrate the interrelatedness of white and black American culture, “The book is also profoundly about separation and the construction of racial difference” (Alberti 919). I completely agree with this statement about demonstrating the interrelatedness or connection with whites and blacks. Twain represents the way blacks and whites were treated in that era, but Twain is not being racist toward blacks. Alberti credits Twain with helping open American literature to the “multicultural polyphony” (Alberti 920). Demonstrating what has happened in America’s past, the novel is still an adventure novel. Huck and Jim have a relationship that shows how blacks and whites are no different and equally get along with each other. Alberti reminds us that many critics have said, “Both whites and blacks, have also pointed to the level of white fantasy involved in discussions of the character of Jim and more specifically the relationship between Huck and Jim” (Alberti 921). The novel shows how the relationship starts and grows between Huck and Jim. When Huck first sees Jim their relationship starts to grow. Huck says, “I was ever so glad to see Jim. I warn’t lonesome, now” (Twain 31). I agree with Alberti in that the novel should be taught in school because it teaches the history of America’s past and a view of the world.

Proponents argue that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be taught in schools because of the controversial nature of the novel. In the article Does Huck Finn Belong in My Classroom? Paula Leider explains, “I was relieved at the prospect of no longer needing to feel concern about how I dealt with the issue of racism in my classroom” (Leider 1). Leider argues against teaching the novel in schools because she does not want to have to deal with teaching racism. She feels it is difficult teaching this subject to teenagers, 16 and 17 year olds, because they do not fully understand all that is going on. Leider does not think that when she taught the book that her young audience fully understood three main areas: the context, prejudice, and racism in America’s culture. Other proponents believe that the novel should not be taught unless the teacher understands what he is teaching (Lieder). This will then allow the novel to be taught correctly allowing the students to understand the harsh emotional impact of the material. Leider explained that every year when she taught the novel she would ask the student whether or not they thought the novel should be taught in school. Every year it was divided into 50-50. Leider states, “This leads me to question whether we really get to question to the heart of understanding prejudice and racism in our culture” (Leider 2). Leider supports her argument against teaching the novel in school by stating the problem of racism and prejudice.
Critics say that Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be a painful book to teach; however, they still believe it should be taught in school. The novel should be taught because the novel expresses the view of Twain when he wrote the book. In the article The Teachers Lounge: Why We Still Need Huckleberry Finn states, “It is satire, and if students are to understand it, they must first understand the nature of satire” (anonymous 1). Twain’s strong use of satire can be seen as a negative view on society, but he uses satire to explain the truth going on in society. Twain uses satire when the duke and dauphin tell Huck and Jim they are royal, “say ‘your grace’ and my lord’ or ‘your lordship’” (Twain 93). Many people believe that the novel is not perfect but it is a wonderful achievement, “It explores a universal and timeless human problem, and therefore, it is the truth, even if it didn’t happen” (anonymous 3). The novel must be taught in order for society to understand America’s past history. Students should read and learn from the novel because it will help them to further understand how society really treated each other. In order for this to happen the teachers must fully understand the novel in order to be able to teach the novel correctly.

The novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be taught in school with certain responsibilities. Before the novel is taught teachers must first understand the novel. The teacher should sit down with her students before the novel is taught and explain how culture and society was when the book was written so the student understand Twain’s view on the culture. A main topic that would help to strengthen race relations in class is for the class to talk about race before the novel is read and interpreted. The n-word being a tense topic, the classroom and the teacher should discuss how they feel about saying it or not. This will allow the classroom environment to be less tense every time the word pops up in the novel. These little details will help to enable the correct teaching of the novel and help to strengthen race relations in the classroom. With this said Adventures of Huckleberry Finn shoul

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