The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Anaysis Essay Example
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is a classic American novel loved and cherished by many. It tells the story of a friendship between a black man and a white boy as they travel down the Mississippi River together in the early 1800s. This book is arguably the first great piece of American literature as Twain’s style of writing ignores formalities that other American books are written with and contains themes that are now dominant in American literature. While some people love the casual, realistic style of the book, one word in particular has created controversy since the book was released. The n-word, appearing 219 times in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has created discomfort and offense in some readers, leading to its removal from many schools’ curriculum and the publishing of a censored version. The language used in the book, however, illustrates America’s past and creates historical accuracy for the time. Censoring The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain takes away from important messages in the novel.
The n-word is an extremely offensive thing to say in today’s time, but people have to understand that “that word is part of this country’s past” (McWhorter), and it was a common thing said in the pre-Civil War era, which is when The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn takes place. Keeping the text in its original form captures what that part of American history was like for African Americans and accurately portrays, “the nation’s cultural climate before the Civil War” (Bach). It is beneficial for students to read the original version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in school because it is a safe place where they can learn about racial prejudice and slavery, and discuss how people of color were treated during this time. That conversation might include talking about why the n-word was used, and while the actual word should not be said aloud, it is important to learn why it was used so students do not think it is okay to say the n-word today. Also, “the literary value of the book outweighed the negative aspect of the language employed” (Sova), and the important themes and messages throughout Huck Finn should be the main focus when reading the novel.
One key theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is race. The book demonstrates racial integration through Huck and Jim’s friendship and loyalty that overcomes social expectations surrounding race. In the period that this book is set in, black people were not treated like human beings, and many slaves were seen as property. At the beginning of Huck Finn, Huck knows Jim as Miss Watson’s slave, but he does not have a close relationship with him or know much about his outside life. However, when Huck finds out Jim is hiding on the same island as him, they begin to form a bond. A significant moment in Jim and Huck’s relationship is when Huck tells Jim, “Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain’t a minute to lose. They’re after us!” (Twain 59) This is the moment that Huck joins himself to Jim instead of allowing him to be turned in, and this is when their friendship really begins. At this point, Huck is already defying what society expects of him, and this displays the anti-racist message of the story. Another significant moment in the story that deals with race is after Huck writes a letter to Miss Watson revealing where Jim is. Huck thinks this is the right thing to do at the time because that is what everyone he looks up to would do. However, he becomes deeply conflicted because he looks up to Jim now and sees him as a human being who does not deserve to be enslaved. This is most likely the most difficult decision Huck has ever had to make because he thinks he will go to hell if he does not turn Jim in, but he still decides to rip up the letter and says to himself, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” (Twain 195). Huck’s decision is incredible because it goes against everything Huck has been taught about race, and yet still in his heart he knows that turning in his friend to be enslaved is not a moral or ethical thing to do.
Another major theme in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is freedom. At the beginning of Jim and Huck’s journey, they have very different ideas of what freedom is because they are both escaping from different things. Jim wants freedom from slavery and Miss Watson’s control, while Huck feels choked by civilized society and wants to escape the formal life he is being forced to live. Huck’s idea of freedom is a life full of adventure and relaxation with none of the restrictions of society, whereas Jim’s idea of freedom is reuniting with his family and living a peaceful life. The fact that their visions of freedom are different creates the question of whether there is a universal notion of freedom or if each person’s idea of freedom is different. The Mississippi River is a symbol of freedom throughout the book because it is a place where Huck and Jim can escape society’s views and expectations of them. The river becomes freedom for Huck and becomes a path to freedom for Jim. They feel “mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft” (Twain 107). Although the river serves as a temporary refuge from the racial prejudices and degrading slurs used in society, Jim knows he cannot escape those things forever. He has to settle somewhere eventually, and people will probably still call him demeaning things, such as the n-word. Keeping the original language in the book shows the vast difference between the freedom and acceptance found on the river and the harshness of “civilized” society.
While the actual text of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be censored, when students are reading the book in school, the n-word should not be said out loud because the word is offensive and saying it aloud will make some students uncomfortable. It is more beneficial to read the book silently and then discuss it as a class than to read it together but have students distracted by having to say the n-word and feeling bad about it. Especially in predominantly white classes, saying the n-word out loud could be “creating an emotional block” (Sova) for African American students as it is an insulting term. Also, allowing students to say the n-word in a classroom setting may lead them to believe it is okay for them to say it in other settings, which is not the case. Teachers can use this as an opportunity, however, to teach students how harmful the word was then and is now, and help students understand “that ‘Huckleberry Finn’ actually stands as a powerful indictment of slavery” (Kakutani). The n-word is valuable to the messages in the story, but it does not need to be said aloud to understand the messages.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain should not be censored because the original language supports principal themes in the book. This treasured piece of classic American literature tells the story of a black man and a white boy and their adventures on the Mississippi River as they travel on a journey to find freedom. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is unique in the way that Twain’s writing ignores the usual formalities that are used in literature. It contains many important themes and messages throughout the story. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is generally accepted and loved, but the use of the n-word and other demeaning phrases has caused controversy since its publication. The frequent use of the n-word throughout the story has led to the publication of a censored version of the book and its complete removal from many schools’ curriculum. However, the language used is relevant to the setting and helps create a more historically accurate picture.