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Mark Twain is called the father of American literature, and very few people have never read Mark Twain’s book. ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘Tom Sawyer’s Adventure,’ and ‘Life on the Mississippi’ are such literary works that many people may have heard of. Among these famous books from Mark Twain, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ is the book that will be dealt with. ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ is a story about the journey of a poor southern white boy named Huck, running away with Jim who is an African-American slave. In search for their freedom, the two escaped from the social restraints that they used to be cuffed and travel along the Mississippi River. Although this book is very familiar and is considered to be a boyhood adventure tale to most of us, Huck Finn has been creating a great controversy on both sides of the argument, that whether the book should be banned from the American school curriculum or not. From the book ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’, characters speak with a racist language. The racist language that characters use to speak and the way they address African Americans causes a great controversy regarding whether to ban the book in public schools or keep it. The center of the dispute is the usage of the word ‘nigger’ which is used repeatedly throughout the novel. The fact that the word is so often used throughout the book offends many African Americans. It is a well-known fact that the word ‘nigger’ has powerful negative connotations and past references to blacks as slaves. Not only did Twain overused the word ‘nigger’ throughout the book, but he additionally portrayed blacks brutally through negative and insulting stereotypes. An example of this attitude can be seen when Aunt Sally and Huck talk about a steamboat incident that caused an explosion:

Now I struck an idea, and fetched it out: ‘It wasn’t the grounding

that didn’t keep us back but a little. We blew out a cylinder-head.’

‘Good gracious! Anybody hurt?

‘No ma’am. Only killed a nigger.’

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‘Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt’ (Mark Twain, 220-221).

Aunt Sally asks Huck if anyone died during the explosion on the steamboat, and Huck explains that no one was killed but later admits that a ‘nigger’ was killed. The quote shows how the characters view blacks at that era. They are so far beneath whites in society that they are considered non-human. Also, Twain shows how Huck perceives blacks to have no emotion when he says, ‘He was thinking about his wife and his children, away up yonder, and he was low and homesick, I do believe he cared just as much for his people as white folks do for theirs. It doesn’t seem natural…’ (Mark Twain, 155). Huck was surprised to discover the existence of Jim’s emotion because Huck was brought up in a very racist setting, and was taught to think of African Americans as inhuman. This thought of African Americans as inhuman disturbs African American students in today’s public schools. John H. Wallace, an African American critic from Fairfax, explains the uncomfortable feelings that some African American students feel when they are, reading aloud Huck Finn in the classrooms and he states it as ‘It is humiliating and insulting to black students. It contributes to their feelings of low self-esteem and the white student’s disrespect for black people’ (‘Huck Finn Teacher’s Guide’). Some African American students believe they are immensely dismal when reading this novel and no longer feel respected or feel inferior to the other whites that are in the class. The degrading feelings some black students start to feel causes parents to become anxious. Chadwick-Joshua tells the readers from his book ‘The Jim’s Dilemma’ that ‘Parents are not alone in their desire to alleviate their children’s discomfort at confronting the painful and debilitation effects of racism and slavery’ (Chadwick-Joshua 13). Some parents of black students greatly disapprove of schools making their children feel forced with ‘confronting and exploring the issues and language that Twain depicts’ (Chadwick-Joshua 26). Even though the novel depicts black people negatively, there’s also a bright side of the story which we cannot neglect. The book actually teaches the reader the history and integration of blacks into white society, which is invaluable for both adults and non-adults to read. Not banning this colorful novel about racism is extremely important to learn not only the shifts of social views toward the blacks through the actions of characters but also the efforts of Mark Twain who tried to battle against racism through literary ideas from the novel.

While the novel did use racial dialects which are offensive toward the African Americans, the novel also portrays how the social views toward the blacks have altered throughout history through characters. Lee Burress, a critic and also a literature teacher from Columbus North high school located in the city of Detroit, explains ‘Although Huck never completely transcends the stereotypic notions of his society; he does change attitudes toward other people as his experiences with Jim force him to confront his views about Black people. He rejects the notion of people as property, recognizes the feelings of others, and learns to respond to the individual rather than the role’ (‘A Rationale for Teaching Huckleberry Finn’, Lee Burress). Throughout the story, Huck gains a new understanding of humanity. The transformation of thinking is seen when Huck escapes from the king and the duke, two con artists. Once Huck escapes from the two crooks, he returns to the raft, where Jim was hiding, but he couldn’t find him and he started to cry for his absence. The fact that Huck started to cry when he realized that Jim was missing shows that Huck cares about Jim, but then Huck confronts to an inner conflict, whether to tell Miss Watson about Jim’s escape or not. Huck’s self-agony of whether to write a letter to Miss Watson or not is seen when Huck says, ‘Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d got to be a slave, and so I’d better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was’ (Mark Twain 211-212). Huck is nervous about writing a letter to Miss Watson because he thinks that if he does, she would be ‘mad and disgusted at his Jim’s rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she’d sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn’t, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they’d make Jim feel it all the time, and so he’d feel ornery and disgraced’ (Twain 212). Another situation that worried Huck about writing Miss Watson the letter is when he starts to think ‘It would get all around the Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom, and if I were ever to see anybody from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame’ (Twain 212). After Huck continues to think about if he should turn Jim in or not, he states that ‘I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was, but deep down in me I knew it was a lie, and He knew it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out’ (Twain 213). Then Huck starts to think again about writing to Miss Watson. While thinking, Huck starts to remember all of the good times he spent with Jim, and also all of the good things that Jim has done for Huck. After Huck thinks about all the good times he had with Jim, he could no longer find the stamina to turn Jim in. Then Huck says, ‘All right, then, I’ll go to hell’ (Twain 214). Huck finally realizes that he cares for Jim and cannot go through with turning him in. Huck cares so much for Jim that Huck then says, ‘I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog’ (Twain 214). Huck’s transformation of thinking and self-agony help the readers to realize how much he cared so much of Jim; showing the readers the change of social changes. For example, one of America’s representative black human rights organization, NAACP says, ‘You don’t ban Mark Twain-you explain Mark Twain! To study an idea is not necessarily to endorse the idea. Mark Twain’s satirical novel, Huck Finn, accurately portrays a time in the history-the nineteenth century and one of its evils, slavery’ (‘Huck Finn Teacher’s Guide’). Likewise, society needs to learn to embrace the past and learn from it. History comes with back-stories and lessons that help remind the public why something happened. Past events such as slavery and racism should never be forgotten in order to ensure they never occur again. Chadwick-Joshua explains that the issue of race is central to America’s future and such denial or avoidance of America’s past is cowardly (Chadwick Joshua, 14). The best way for society to continue to move forward away from racism is to learn from the past. Americans, especially African Americans, ‘need to find a clearer understanding of who we were, as wonderful and as painful as our history is so that we can more successfully determine what we wish to become’ (Chadwick-Joshua 14). Consequently, restating ideas and attitudes that correlate with the racist features in the past help Twain to illustrate an improved vision for the future which immature group such as children would take it positively.

Moreover, this book aids children in learning Twain’s literal endeavors that were intended to go up against discrimination. Chadwick-Joshua believes that society ‘must arm our children to survive in a world where racism does still exist. We must teach them about their American ancestral faces and voices’ (Chadwick-Joshua 21). Anti-racism will always exist in society’s minds; it will be respected through each generation to come. Racism is seen when the whites refer to the blacks as ‘niggers,’ which can be offensive. In the case of the novel, if the public bans or takes out the word ‘nigger,’ then the impact of the novel will be diluted. ‘To have avoided using ‘nigger,’ ‘hell’ and ‘poor white trash’ would have been a denial, a lie that would have undermined the novel’s power to move readers to frustration…’ (Chadwick-Joshua 24). The more uncomfortable one feels when saying or hearing the word ‘nigger,’ the more powerful the lesson will become. Chadwick-Joshua states ‘Twain made an important decision to render all the characters through their appropriate southern dialect. Naturally, this decision adds to the novel’s verisimilitude’ (16). The novel is realistic and appropriate to the period which has its setting during the American Civil War, and ‘More importantly, not allowing Jim to express himself in his way would have defeated the novel’s purpose and would indeed have diminished Jim’s character. By allowing us to see what we see, and to hear Jim’s voice, Twain enhances the whole notion of the southern slave’s integrity and self-reliance in the fact of the grotesque predicament that the ‘milder’ forms of slave plantation life created’ (Chadwick-Joshua 21). To sum up, Jim is an essential character in the novel Huck Finn because he expresses himself in a precise and true manner. Chadwick-Joshua describes Jim as ‘having a sense of honor, ethics, loyalty, indomitable faith in the nuclear family (a faith that extends into guardianship of Huck Finn), masterful ability to manipulate language, sturdy sense of duty, grasp of the deep meaning of friendship, clear perception of himself as a man, intimating wisdom, desire to be self-reliance, and conscious awareness of taking risks. These traits are the marks of a hero’ (Chadwick-Joshua 12). Twain thinks very highly of Jim and considers him to be a ‘hero’ rather than just a slave. Also, by calling Jim a ‘hero,’ Twain shows how he represents anti-racism. Such effort to show anti-racism, to fight against racism is a profound reason that the novel shouldn’t be excluded in the American school curriculum.

The book will continue to be a hot potato until the very last day of arguing the issue of discrimination. Society may want to ban it because of the racist language and slurs but will want to keep it because of the value it contains. To put in a nutshell, Huck Finn must be kept in the school curriculum since it helps students remember and gain crucial knowledge of America’s mistakes in racism against the black. ‘What better way to channel one’s energy than to help increase tolerance, understands, and most important of all, acceptance of one another? One must hope that this book will accomplish such worthy and necessary aspirations’ (Chadwick-Joshua 23). This novel does represent the past’s racist language and attitudes that represent slavery which will be somewhat uncomfortable to African Americans, but we should acknowledge that such use of racist language is somewhat uncomfortable but a powerful way to teach the history of black people who were discriminated against in the past, and reminds us that such history should not be repeated. Therefore, ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ should be a respected book that should not be banned and can be read in children facilities in America. Before we wrap things up, I want to mention one thing about this issue. It isn’t simply problematic because the African Americans readers who read the novel saw the racist language, but anyone regardless of their race would feel unpleasant with such words. The reason lies under the goodness of human nature. What I mean by the goodness of human nature here is that we are all equal since we are all ‘good,’ or we are all ‘perfect’ in our existence since birth. Nobody is incomplete or imperfect, and this completeness of our life proves that we should not be treated unequally due to external appearances such as skin color. There are still a lot of discriminatory acts going on in the world, and I hope for the best that everyone around the globe acknowledges the goodness of our nature, and if so, there will be a world without racism.

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