Archived Story

Rewrite of Huck Finn is an abomination

Published 12:22pm Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I have always enjoyed studying literature. Picking up a book I have not read before and getting lost in a world foreign to me is one of the most pleasurable activities I do.

While I do not read as wide of a variety of books as I should — I mostly read popular fiction and historical books — I do have a long list of authors who’s works I enjoy reading.

Mark Twain is one of them. Twain, in my opinion, is the king of American literature and I believe school kids should be introduced to his writings.

Not only does Twain offer entertaining stories about mischievous boys such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he also offers a great historical view of life in the United States in the latter half of the 1800s.

Getting this view of history is one of the reasons I enjoy Twain’s works so much. History books can explain what the issues were during the time, but the literature of the era gives those issues the human quality necessary to fully understand those issues and their repercussions.

That is why I was shocked to find out earlier this week that NewSouth Books is planning on releasing an edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that will remove all the instances of the “n” word and replace it with slave. The new edition will also remove usage of the word injun.

This infuriates me for two reasons.

First is the historical context the book provides. It gives people in 2010 a view into the minds of some of the people who lived 150 years earlier.

Yes, that thought process is far outdated and inappropriate these days, but it was common in the 1860s. While it might not be pleasant in the age of political correctness, it should be valued as an accurate account of the human experience of the times.

The other problem I have with the new edition of the book is it is not the book Twain wrote.

During my time away from my job here at The Franklin County Times, I do write some short stories. I choose the words in those stories for a reason.

Sometimes when writers review their work they change a word or two, but once a story is published, that is the work the author wants the readers to see.

Twain could have chosen not to use the “n” word or injun in the story, but those changes would have not only altered the context of Huck’s experience but also would have made the story unrealistic.

Changing a writer’s final product — especially 100 years following their death — to protect your sensibilities is an abomination to literature and is never excusable.

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