Huck Finn meets his new friend Not Quite Sure What To Call You Jim
NewSouth Books is releasing a new edition of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This new bright and shiny version will replace the word “nigger” with the word “slave”, thereby ensuring its place on the school curriculum and introducing itself to a whole new generation of readers. Shhhh. Apparently racism never occurred.
Crock city. Is anyone else outraged by this? Do we all fear an attack from Mark Twain’s zombiefied corpse which is surely spinning with anger/horror/revenge driven emotions? I most certainly do.
Let’s all put on our racism hats and think about this issue for a minute. And by racism hat I don’t mean don a stiff white sheet and tackle anyone who doesn’t look like you, but let’s seriously consider the information they are trying to shelter these kids from. Twain Scholar Alan Gribben assures us in a crusty voice trying to be hip that “the new version is not censorship but a modern update on the classic.”
Gribben is concerned that people may be offended by the fairly liberal use of the N-word and perhaps experience an old fashioned Southern swoon in reaction to the horror that a tiny bit of realism has pinpricked their mint julep ridden, lace handkerchief waving world.
Good! Books and media are meant to offend, provoke thought and discussion, and in general, not submit to a namby pamby ideal of what people should think and know. Get outraged and throw the book across the room in disgust, maybe even yell at your loved one if they disagree with you; but realise that like it or not, the book made an impact.
There has long been division over whether people consider Huckleberry Finn racist or if the book attacks racism and the old fashioned attitude towards it at the time. Are we to pretend that in an ideal world the buying and selling of slaves never happened? Yeah, it was an incredibly sucky time full of sucky people that did sucky things. People should be outraged, offended and even get a little bit teary when they hear of the atrocities that fellow human beings went through. But it did happen. To pretend to future generations that it didn’t is laying the foundation for it to occur again. How are we to learn from our mistakes if we never knew that we made them?
On the other side of the coin that is the symbol for my the bug up my butt over this piece of news, is the fact that NewSouth Books have no problem with simply launching in and altering other people’s works. Next thing you know Michaelangelo’s statue of David will be wearing a mankini and Mellors the Gamekeeper will be referring to Lady Chatterley’s kitten. There is a reason things are presented or written the way they are. Mark Twain once said that "the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter." Well said sister.
To remove or alter them would be like..well, like putting a mankini on Michaelangelo’s David. Morally wrong and just a bit weird.
The opinions expressed in The 7PM Side Project blog do not necessarily reflect those of The 7PM Project or the Ten Network.