To Read or Not to Read: Huckleberry Finn

May 14, 2012
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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is considered to be a classic novel in America. Some believe that this novel shows how white people interacted with African Americans. It portrays life as it used to be, but others feel it is racist. Even so, I think that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is quite appropriate to be read and discussed in high school classes.

The focus in the novel for many people is the use of the ‘N’ word. People associate the ‘N’ word with being completely racist toward African Americans. The novel’s setting, however, is based in the South near the Mississippi River where African Americans were slaves to white people, and there is no escaping the ‘N’ word when looking back into history at the horrible times where people were indeed slaves. If we were to forget the use of the ‘N’ word, then it would be as if we were lying and forgetting about reality in the past.

If we are to truly learn about a certain time period, it is important to review not only the language used, but how relationships were affected as well. When reading about characters, students can learn who they are and search within themselves as to who they wish to be. Huck, for example, could not always discern right from wrong, but he grows throughout the story as he encounters different people, and in the end, he figures out what kind of person he desires to be. Huck is smart enough to know that his father, Pap, is a selfish no-good drunk man. He does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps, which shows his sense of morality. In reading this novel, students can also learn that a person’s morality may be tested from time to time. Huck’s morality is tested when he is on the ship with the group of murderers. Jim and Huck end up escaping the murderers and taking their raft, leaving them to die. Huck has a change of heart when he wants to help the murderers, although it is too late. Huck was put in a position where protecting himself was first priority, but in wanting to help the murderers, he showed a genuine change in his sense of morality.

Readers can also learn that their actions affect others. The mistreatment of African Americans is a main focus within this novel. It is important for students to not only learn about how African Americans were treated, but that it is possible to rise above the racism and prejudice. In this novel, Jim changed Huck the most. Through the adventures and times they shared together, they became friends. Huck grows up, and his sense of morality changes when thinking about Jim’s feelings, family, and their own relationship, which is a friendship between a black man and a white boy, something unheard of during this time period. Huck initially was racist toward Jim and treated him poorly. He humiliated him by placing a rattlesnake in his pillow while he was sleeping. He also tricked Jim when they were separated at one point on the river due to the fog. The reader learns how being prejudiced can hurt others. Huck regrets his behavior toward Jim. Although he had considered turning Jim in because he is a runaway slave, he never does, because doing so would deeply hurt Jim.

Many would argue that these reasons I have presented could, on the other hand, be used to support the position that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be taught in schools. People consider the ‘N’ word to be completely racist, even if it was acceptable during this time period. Huck’s sense of morality can be used against him where he seems to rebel against the norm when he wants to go to hell instead of heaven. Also, the times where Huck fooled Jim and when Tom made a game out of helping Jim escape are examples where characters negatively influence the reader. On the other hand, though, that was reality. Teaching the concepts and discussing about situations in the book can help better today’s society too.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should, therefore, be taught in school because of its approaches on racism and themes of adventure. This book is a classic novel and demonstrates life’s struggles and realization in the hope of not offending African Americans in the process.





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