Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
416 pages

I normally never review books that are considered to be "classics" or "great literature."  They obviously don't need my endorsement or otherwise, and, quite frankly, I'm not a real literary critic.  Just a college student who reads way too much and likes to share her opinions.  However, after reading this book for the fourth or so time for a class this semester, I decided that, due to the controversial nature of the novel, I'd just weigh in a bit.

Although Twain began writing this novel with the intention of making it another "boy's book," a sequel to the engaging and light Adventures of Tom Sawyer, it is quite clear that Huck Finn is in a class all of its own.  It still maintains the boyish adventure narrative of Tom Sawyer, and even more so due to the first person narrative.  However, it is completely saturated with many different mature themes, such as racism, critiques of religion and American society.  What makes this book highly controversial, however, is its use of the "n-word" in labeling its African American characters.  Throughout the country, schools have banned this book from their classrooms and libraries.  Parents are horrified at the idea of their impressionable children being exposed to this word in such casual usage.  Huck himself refers to his slave companion Jim this way!  The compromise has often been to teach a censored version of the text.

As a literature student and a lover of Twain's writing, this latest read-through inspired me to put my own opinion out there.  I think that assigning students the censored version of the novel takes so much away from their learning experience.  First of all, it takes away from the genius that is Huck's completely honest and realistic narration.  As a child growing up in the antebellum South, Huck never would have said "slave" or "negro;" he would have used the "n-word."  Second of all, it creates a safe atmosphere in which the students can discuss the reasoning behind the word, why it was used, the historical background, etc.  One learning experience comes out of another.  As for myself, my mother bought me my first copy of the uncensored novel when I was in sixth grade.  I devoured it as I had Tom Sawyer, and it created an opportunity for us to talk about not only the "n-word," but about other things that we should never do or say.

Besides, if we are that concerned about what our children were being exposed to, we should looking at the images and ideas that modern media is filling their heads with.  That's what I think we should be concerned with.  I would love to hear any and all reactions you all have to this debate over the banning or censorship of an American classic.

Until then, happy reading everybody!

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