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Huck Finn This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


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Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been controversial ever since its release in 1884. It has been called everything from the root of modern American literature to a piece of racist trash. The greatest controversy, however, comes with its presence in high school classrooms. The book's use of the “n-word” causes many to question Twain's real motives in writing it. Huck's constant musings about Jim's uncouth and lowly demeanor can cause the reader to feel uncomfortable, but we must remember that Huck acts as he sees adults acting, and his views merely reflect those of his fellow Southerners. Twain intended The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to satirize the South and its long, excruciating process of eliminating slavery and attaining equality for all people. Huck Finn provides an accurate glimpse into our terrible past, and for this reason, it must be taught in classes across the country.

Considering that a lot of high schools are racially mixed, strong discomfort ensues when classes dive into The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. If teachers do not confront the issue of the novel's offensive language ahead of time, people are bound to get upset. In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, in 1995, a group of eleventh-grade black students boycotted the book because of its racist content. Pressured into making a change before these students flunked out of school, the district brought parents, students, teachers, administrators, and scholars together to remedy the problem. After a year of intense debate, they finally figured out a way to teach Huck Finn that addressed each group's concerns.

Although Huck Finn displays examples of alarming ignorance and racism throughout, the story also contains several of the most inspirational lines in American literature. When Huck decides that he'll “go to Hell” in order to save Jim, the reader sees that Huck's real beliefs differ from those of his contemporaries. The book must be read for what it truly is: a classic of American literature, and a satire of our country at the height of its ignorance and despair.

Many critics contend that Huck Finn's offensive language makes it too advanced for high school students. Minnesota English teacher Paula Leider argues that most people's lack of experience and knowledge of “what it means to be persecuted due to race” makes us incapable of understanding the offensive nature of the novel. This argument definitely has merit, and the language in Huck Finn often borders on excessive. For example, when Huck attempts to explain the fact that different countries have different languages, Jim stubbornly refuses to believe it. Huck gives up, saying, “you can't learn a n---er to argue.”

Huck's ignorance often surfaces, and his frequent use of the “n-word” certainly causes the reader to cringe. In a racially mixed classroom, this discomfort is magnified tenfold. Black critics of Huck Finn, including school administrator John H. Wallace, believe that the novel's excessive bigotry delegitimizes its message. The offensive language in Huck Finn certainly makes it a difficult book to read.

Although the argument against reading this novel certainly makes sense, many forget how influential and important The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was in our country. Critics often forget Samuel Clemens' strong views on slavery and abolition. They forget that he supported the liberation of slaves; he even paid for a black youth's education at Yale University. In an article in College English magazine, Lucille Fultz calls Wallace's criticism of the novel “self-righteous indignation.” Sadly, many critics refuse to analyze the novel and read Huck Finn for its intended purpose: to criticize America's despicable views of black people, and to offer a look at our hopeful, tolerant future through the eyes of a Southern boy.

When Jim gets mad at Huck for lying about his dream, Huck feels terrible. The process of “humbling [himself] to a n---er” presents Huck with a moral dilemma, but he does apologize, adding that he “warn't ever sorry for it afterwards.” This act portrays Huck not as an ignorant Southern bore, but rather an empathetic child slowly beginning to understand that the man he perceived as property and less than human actually has feelings and needs similar
to his.

After reading The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn, I believe that the way a teacher approaches ­discussing it is critical. Before beginning, the teacher must acknowledge the severity of the language. ­Taking a vote on the use of the “n-word” in class ­discussion could cut down on awkwardness in the classroom.

Despite the controversies, I believe that Huck Finn must be read in American literature courses because of the important role it played in our country's past. No classroom should skip Huck Finn; every English class can find a way to read this novel that meets their specific needs.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2011 Teen Ink EBSCO POV Contest.




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buckyhenryizlol said...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm
you know little to nothing about good english
 
lol1 replied...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm
h8rz gonna h8!!!!!
 
lol1 replied...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 9:22 pm
wait... i was mad, but then i saw your screen name... i'm not mad anymore :)
 
buckyhenryizlol said...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm
wow. i have never been more inspired. i have established a adgenda to abolish mental slavery by 2062
 
Frau said...
Jul. 6, 2011 at 8:08 am
Your article was very well written and informative.  keep up the good work.
 
TheJust This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 9, 2011 at 9:33 am
I liked your report except that it seemed really repetitive, like you were making the same two arguments over and over without really saying anything new.
 
Sage VII said...
May 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm

"Anyone searching for a moral...will be shot. Enforced by G.G., Chief of Ordinance"

---Introduction to Huck Finn.

Only Mark Twain is awesome enough to threaten to shoot people that overanalyze his book WITH A GATLING GUN.

 
amalie said...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 7:02 pm
weird. this is my english reserach paper topic. Where did you find some of ur information? this is really good. I'm not supposed to take sides in my paper but seriously, there are so many reasons why Huck Finn is a classic and why it will always be a classic- people that protest it need to understand that point in history better.
 
amalie replied...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm
sorry i didnt mean ur article was weird, just that its my topic is weird xD
 
Charlie R. said...
Jan. 27, 2011 at 11:43 am
This article speaks to my spirit.
 
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