The Adventures of Huck Finn, revisited

For the record, I completely agree with Kathleen Parker’s stance on Alan Gribben’s new edition of Twain’s novel in which Gribben changes every instance of the word “nigger” to “slave.”  The way I see it, literature chronicles society – past and present.  Ideas change.  Language evolves.  It’s not our job to do “something constructive by simply eliminating a word that’s a clear barrier for many people.”

Sorry, Mr. Gribben, there’s nothing “constructive” or “simple” about it.

Still, Tim Rutten says it best when he remarks, “The offensive idiocy of vandalism masquerading as sensitivity need not be belabored here.”  And so I’ll end with a pictorial argument too good to not pass along from BoingBoing.






2 thoughts on “The Adventures of Huck Finn, revisited

  1. I agree. I believe Twain used the term to show the tension between Jim’s ascribed identity and the one he adopted for himself. I think when the scholar changed it to “slave,” it was revisionist history that changed Twain’s original intent. Good lit can make people uncomfortable. If it were easy to take, we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kacy; I couldn’t agree more. Certainly the word is disturbing and makes us feel uncomfortable, that’s just the point. Gribben’s move to eradicate words that are “clear barriers” essentially eliminates a fantastic teaching opportunity for educators and an opportunity for self-exploration for others coming to the novels outside an educational arena. It’s a sad day for literature.

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