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Is the New Edition of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Censorship?

January 5, 2011

Yesterday I caught a headline that sent a chill down my spine: a new edition of Mark Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn will strip the classic story of the “n” word, replacing it with “slave”.  In addition to that, it will remove the word “Injun”.  WTF?

In my generation, Huckleberry Finn was required reading, so I am familiar with the book.  I have a very hard time with these small tweaks, because it is a slippery slope.  It won’t end with this book, I assure you.

Publisher’s Weekly explains that the book has fallen out of favor with school curriculum because of the “n” word.  I think that is equal parts frightening and sad that our world is so politically correct that people must be shielded from reading the word.  Do we really need that much protection?  You are changing history if you remove these words.  They were part of the vernacular at the time of the book’s publication (1885). I think it is important that we remember our history, and books are going to be one way of preserving that.

Shouldn’t we use the presence of the word to teach our youths about the mistakes of the past?

You can’t just start sanitizing fictional works to appease the PC police.  Where will it end?  It will start with one book, then another, and another.  We can’t have people arbitrarily deciding what is appropriate to read. I get that these words are offensive.  They should be, and we should never forget. This classic story was a reflection of society at the time. Why whitewash it?

The project is spearheaded by Twain scholar and Auburn University professor Alan Gribben. NewSouth Books will be publishing the edition.

To be fair, this is just one edition of the book, the original text will still be made readily available. However, I don’t like messing with anyone artistic vision.

I’m not an alarmist, but it is ironic that I am reading Ally Condie’s Matched, a book that takes place in a future where the government decides everything.  What you eat, who you marry, whether you have kids, what you read, and what music you listen to.

What are your thoughts on this controversy?


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One Response to “ Is the New Edition of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Censorship? ”

  1. Sara henke on January 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I got Matched for my birthday & can’t wait to start it. We’ll have to compare notes when I finish it.