The arguably most prominent piece of American literature, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, undoubtedly presents contemporary academic institutions and readers around the world with an ongoing ethical debate.
Through the lenses of a modern-day, enlightened individual, Mark Twain’s masterpiece commonly establishes itself as a dated novel condoning the existence of slavery and absolute racial inequality. However, these same critics must instead allow themselves to place spectacles depicting the reality of the 1800s in America over their eyes. The audience must recognize Twain’s powerful implementation of realism into his piece in order to further institute the importance and brilliance of the work. Without question, educational institutions should encourage the reading, analysis, and comprehension of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it introduces and informs students on the reality of the American past and interestingly encourages equality exemplified within the irregular, yet powerful relationship between Jim and Huck. In order to extract the greatest understanding of the novel, students and academic institutions must place themselves in the American South of the 1830s and 40s. This period in history characterizes itself with notions of racial dominance and outright slavery. Firstly, an essential aspect to comprehending the rationale behind the inclusion of harsh racial slurs lies within the background of the author. Mark Twain, creator of various nineteenth century realist novels, grew up in the southern midwestern state of Missouri where subjugation of the African American population was not uncommon.
Remarks advocating racial degradation persistently appear such as in Chapter 6, when Pap, a regular of the Antebellum South, states, “When they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin. Them’s the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me,” (Twain 27). Unfortunately, these unethical practices became a powerful institution within the American economy and culture of the South. Therefore, we, as informed scholars, must understand that Twain’s recurrent practice of jarring diction results from application of realism rather than that of racism. Dissidents from this opinion may argue that Twain published the novel in 1885, twenty years after the Civil War, so therefore racial insults should have been terminated from regular use.
Disappointingly, however, the African American individuals in the United States would not receive full social justice until the 1960s after the fall of Jim Crow laws and the notions of liberty and equality are established. Furthermore, another vital facet of the novel lies in educating the younger population about this awful, yet truthful period in American history. Through informing adolescents or students of this age, academic institutions ensure the undoubted continuation of social liberties for all people. In other words, although cliche, it will aid in safeguarding that history does not repeat itself.
As it certainly presents itself as contemporarily unacceptable, the racial slurs utilized by Twain emphasize the realism implemented in his writing and inform the academic population of the awful social reality of the 1800s, further advocating the teaching of the novel in schools today.In contrast to the argument at hand, supporters of canceling the novel’s discontinuation do have fortified points to argue. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains numerous instances of extreme racism, overlooks bad morals, and questions the rules of society as exemplified by Huck. Most students of the twenty-first century, regardless of race or ethnicity, might feel considerably uncomfortable publicly discussing the work. Within Delia Lloyd’s “Huck Finn, Censorship and the N-Word Controversy,” she states, “In short, the N-word isn’t just a piece of regional jargon that marks a particular moment in our nation’s history. It’s a hateful word.
It’s poisonous. And it’s pervasive.” Undoubtedly, her explanation can especially sympathize with the segment of contemporary African Americans that frown upon this novel’s teaching. In stark contrast to what most people believe about the nature of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the story interestingly promotes a great bond of equality between the black and white races of the American 1800s, through the relationship of Huck and Jim. Throughout the entire novel, Twain’s characterization of Huck causes the protagonist to struggle with the social norm of racism.
He gradually allows himself to appreciate and recognize Jim’s humanity and eventually his sharp intellectuality. In Huck’s terms, he describes Jim as a person like himself, with just a darker complexion. This “radical” relationship, exhibiting great friendship between two opposites of society, demonstrates the equity mandated for all humanity. Regardless of race, ethnicity or even gender, this novel encourages its audience to find relationships with everyone they value as a confidant.
Specifically, Huck fights the internal predicament deciding whether or not to turn Jim into the authorities. A powerful instance that exhibits Huck’s companionship towards Jim appears in Chapter 23, when Jim says, “De Lord God Amighty fogive po’ ole Jim, kaze he never gwyne to fogive hisself as long’s he live! Oh, she was plumb deef en dumb, Huck, plumb deef en dumb—en I’d ben atreat’n her so!” (Twain 156). Jim displays his distress about his family, further instilling his values into Huck and proving his sentiments as an equal.
The importance of instituting The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn into academic curriculum surpasses that of any other American novel. Although Twain’s masterpiece falls short to contemporary ethical standards, the inclusion into the classroom benefits students by not shying away from the reality of the harsh society in American history and enabling students to appreciate Jim and Huck’s relationship beyond the colors of their skin.