Many of us know the story of Huck Finn, the young boy who ran away from his abusive, alcoholic father and found a father figure in the kind, elderly (but black) man named Jim. Considered by many to be one of Mark Twain’s greatest novels, it has been banned from many schools. Why? Many would argue that the book’s use of racial slurs and its description of slavery are inappropriate for children to read.
The use of racial slurs against African Americans is one of the most common reasons that parents wish to ban this novel. The word “nigger,” which was used when the book was written, is frequently used as a derogatory term for black people. Today, this word is not acceptable in public speech or writing. However, when Twain published his work in 1885, it was not considered offensive to use this word. Any objections raised about the use of this word were not strong enough to prevent the book from becoming a classic and remaining in print until today.
Another reason why parents wish to ban the novel from their children’s school curriculum is due to its depictions of slavery and other violence. Some have even argued that this text promotes cruelty towards animals, as Huck tricks Jim into thinking his pet hen has been killed by a neighbor cat. While today many find these scenes distasteful and even offensive, Twain had no intention of offending anyone with his writing.