In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn written by Mark Twain controversy was struck due to the excessive use of the term “nigger” when referring to the African American Jim. The book is commonly read by parents to their children in their younger years. Some parents would disagree with the idea of exposing their children to that type of language and action at such a young age, but others would argue to say that showing how change was made over time would help the child understand more about then and now.
The book being read and analyzed in schools could help students understand more about what has happened in the past, and it could teach more of a life lesson about discrimination and racism, but it could also cause spark up trouble between the hormonal teenagers due to the way whites viewed blacks during the time period that the book was written. Introducing a book such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to students at their stage of maturity could change their outlooks on themselves, others, and the world around them.
Around the time of high-school students are now teenagers, they’re staring to wonder more about what has happened in the past with slavery and discrimination amongst whites and blacks. Opening up the book to students in the classroom can demonstrate how the study of American literature can be an effort to defeat segregation and cultural separation all over the world (Source A. ) The relationship between Jim and Huck throughout the book changes from a strange relationship into a friendly, sincere bond.
Knowing that Huck was white and Jim was a “nigger” they weren’t supposed to get along, but the relationship that they develop means something special. The significance of their friendship portrays that segregation isn’t something that you should do, it’s just an option. At the beginning of the book Huck plays a prank on Jim when they were escaping in the raft. The prank he plays on Jim makes him lash out on Huck and show his feelings. Jim says to Huck “En when I wake…so thankful. En all you … Jim wid a lie” (287 Twain. )
This made Huck realize that Jim wasn’t inferior the way stereotypes of society ade him seem, and that he was a human being not just a useless item. In school a group of students may judge a person based off of the way they look, act, or dress rather than who they actually are on the inside which relates back to how Jim was judged yet Huck saw him for who he really was. Instructing students to read and analyze the book in a classroom could change the way they judge people and how they interact with getting to know one another by comparing “niggers” to students who are less fortunate or who are viewed as nerds and geeks.
Twains explicit yet personal language and justification of the word “nigger” pulls the reader in to make them feel what one felt during that time period to help them relate current events to the past. The dialect Twain chooses for Jim helps the reader understand why blacks were viewed the way that they were, because they had little to no education. In a conversation when Huck explains that French men speak a different language Jim is utterly confused because “it’s a blame ridickilous way” (69 Twain) to speak.
The way that whites and blacks were separated and treated made it hard for an African American to learn simple things such as reading and writing. Since the blacks weren’t allowed to have an education they were viewed as something that had no purpose. Even though Jim had common sense and he knew right from wrong he was still viewed as a lesser valued person or item because of the color of his skin. As stated in Source C, “civilization is equated with education” but back then “niggers” weren’t provided with and education due to how crucial racism was back then.
Going through the book and processing what Jim had to go through to be a free slave can make one feel how fundamental discrimination and racism was. It can also change the way one sees everything that happens in the current time today. Bringing the book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn could also be a not too good of an idea considering how teenagers are when it comes down to finding out what really happened in the slavery era. Sitting in a classroom and reading the book can make a group of African Americans feel as if they are being demeaned and insulted (Source C) or it can make one feel like black reality is being played with (Source C. The book was written when “black identity in American society was undefined” (Source B) so Twains usage of “nigger” and negative characterization of Jim (Source B) could make blacks feel degraded and could cause tension in a integrated classroom. If the extensive use of the word “nigger” is taken the wrong way a group riot could start because either blacks don’t like the sound of it or whites feel like they could go around school calling blacks “niggers” because Twain did it throughout the text.
Source C says “Twains portrayal of blacks is almost too easy” which is in a way true because of how he makes Jim seem as if he “lacks self respect, dignity, and a sense of self separate from the one whites want him to have” (Source C. ) The way Twain characterizes Jim could also make whites feel too comfortable because it makes their humanity look better (Source C). Misconceptions can easily happen if the book isn’t analyzed right by a teacher and corruption all around a school can come into action, but that’s only if the students aren’t willing to try to understand the book.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is “acknowledged as an American classic” (Source C. ) Even though some might misinterpret the novel, it is still fundamental in a classroom. The book could easily teach one about racism, segregation, and slavery. Processing the book with a group of students could better educate them on the situations that have occurred in the past and help them have a better understanding on the why the world is the way that it is today. The novel being taught in schools should be considered by mostly all high school English teachers.
- Alberti, John. “The Nigger Huck: Race, Identity, and the Teaching of Huckleberry Finn. ” College English 57. 8 (1995): 919-37.
- JSTOR. Web. . Gregory, Leslie. “Finding Jim Behind the Mask: The Revelation of African American Humanity in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. ” (1998): n. pag. Florida Gulf Coast University. Web.
- Lester, Julius. “Morality and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. ” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism 161 (2005): n. pag. Gale. Web. . Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Random House, 1996. Print.