March 7, 2019
When stories are about a time where people face racism and slavery with the moral of the people of this day and age as it brings much trouble as it meets the controversial topic. As people saw the story “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain, the story showed the readers a time when Africans were once slaves in America. So, this caused some readers to see this story as supporting racism since it used derogatory terminology and described how treated the black people. Even to this day, this new generation of readers seem to forget what virulent racism is, as they seem to advocate censoring the story “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” or even not to let kids read it since it could make the young readers a racist, but that is just not true. While this story fits within a narrow line where many can make points as to why the story is or is not racist, but it is indeed a story that clearly goes against racism both in the late 1800s and today.
The causes of the story not being racist can be shown throughout its chapters. The story centers on a kid named Finn, who ran away from his terrible father to get back to his hometown to point he faked his death and ran with a slave named Jim who is also running away. Though the story uses the “n-word,” it never prompted racism since it focuses on the characters’ moral change. For instance, this is clear when the pair later meet two con artists who kept their secret of Jim being a runaway slave but was soon sold off by the con-artist. That is when Finn meets Tom another main character from another one of Twain’s books, and they rescue Jim. Later, Finn gets back home with Jim and Tom to learn Finn’s dad is dead and Jim is now a free slave. Then Tom and Jim went their separate ways, and Finn decides to not stay in his home-town but to continue traveling to have more adventures. This story again demonstrates that the novel doesn’t support racism, but instead goes against racism. Though many people would not agree since people, especially the United States of America do not want to remember their nations dark past.
Though many Americans are disgusted that the story uses a racial slur and showcases a part of the countries history that they wish never happened, the story shows it is against racism by not allowing people to forget that slavery did take place and that it was morally wrong. As many Americans grow knowing that racism wrong, they tend to forget that there are times when people need to show why slavery and racism are wrong, but instead, they try to hide that their country did practice slavery or just say it is terrible without reflecting on the past. When Finn says “get up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain’t a minute to lose. They’re after us!” there is a clear connection to emotion (Twain 147). This shows a change in Finn’s character as an uncivilized kid living in the south because he is showing concern not just of himself, but of Jim, where he could have just been worried about himself and left Jim behind. Then another point in the story, at the end where Twain wrote, “We had Jim out of the chains in no time” it is showing that slavery is not a positive thing (Twain 289). Jim is now metaphorical and physically freed, he no longer has a chain. This proves the point that the story is not racist or supporting slavery because a man of color is no longer a slave or being discriminated by the people around him. Some readers will still believe it as a story supporting racism, but really this story is about a victim of racism and slavery.
Another point as to why the story is not racist is that it brings out the character Jim out as more than a slave. As Emma Milliken describes, “Huck saw Jim as a stupid, superstitious, escaped slave,” but that is not the whole story (Milliken 1). When a story is made the writer needs to show a character, and the readers need to understand the character fast. In context wise, it makes sense for a man of color to be a slave and simple for the story as this is for children. That is why Jim seems to be a stupid, superstitious, escaped slave, though later in the story Jim is more than meets the eyes. In an article by David L. Smith, he explains, “Yet he portrays Jim as a compassionate, shrewd, thoughtful, self-sacrificing, and even wise” (Smith 297). As Smith is explaining Jim is more than a slave at the beginning of the story, because Jim impacted and changed Finn’s moral and helped the nurse Tom a thing not many people can or would do and is even harder for someone that a slave. Where we see a one-dimensional character as a slave but is actually a full characterized one where throughout the story people support to see him be free at the end of the story. These parts in the story point out as to why the story is not racist as Jim becomes free at the end. Though people are trying to erase harsh words in the story to lessen the racism, it is not helping people become less racist.
When a harsh word that depicts the reason as to why racism is wrong is removed or replaced, it does not reinforce that racism is wrong but removes the strong reason as to why racism is wrong. To replace the “n-word” with slavery is just making the story lose its meaning as Michiko Kakutani says, “Nigger, which appears in the book more than 200 times, was a common racial epithet in the antebellum South, used by Twain as part of his characters’ vernacular speech and as a reflection of mid-nineteenth century social attitudes along the Mississippi River” (Kakutani 305). The story is from a time where the n-word and slavery are common, but one has deeper impact to the readers psychology since they give the “n-word” more power over them and the “n-word” is mostly used on black people, and slavery is a word used throughout history and not just in the United States of America. Another point is that if the “n-word” is swapped to something less harsh it will make the story lose its impact on the reader. As Kakutani also says, “Tampering with a writer’s words underscores both editors’ extraordinary hubris and a cavalier attitude embraced by more and more people in this day of mash-ups, sampling, and digital books-the attitude that all texts are fungible” (Kakutani 305). Kakutani is ultimately stating that if a story of any kind with great writing can be rewritten to an extent to suit a person’s agenda, then any story can be deemed racist and changed to a point its loses its theme that some readers connect to. Then there are people against the story as, Annemarie Hamlin and Constance Joyner wrote, “The most calamitous, gut-wrenching moment of class occurred when Dr. Hamlin calmly allowed the word Nigger to flow from her lips. Unless blessed with large amounts of melanin, one cannot imagine how from zero to twenty seconds, a trusting smile, willingness to participate, and a steady heartbeat can turn into a confused grimace, an unwillingness to continue, and overwhelming heartbreak” (Annemarie Hanlin, etc 13). Though she is against Huckleberry Finn including the n-word and their class including it, it shows that the word still causes an impact to people and brings up something that not many people would like to bring up. That is why the story with the controversial issue must not be changed as its loses its meaning and people will not talk about the stuff they necessarily will bring up if it weren’t for the story and if the “n-word” is replaced people will change it to suit their needs.
Thus, the story that goes against racism and the ideas of slavery is misunderstood. As some readers believe that Jim being present shows it supports racism and slavery but are wrong as Jim is free at the end of the story. Though dis-proven others will say, Jim, being introduced in the story as a runaway slave is racist. Even though in context it makes sense and his character is more than that as he did an act not many people and as well as a slave will do. Then removing the “n-word” makes the story less racist but takes away the point as to why “n-word” is there and takes away that the story is going against racism. Those are the reasons as to why the novel by Mark Twain is not racist or supporting slavery because it goes against the ideas of slavery and is a story going against racism as a black man is free at the end of the story.
Hamlin, Annemarie, and Constance Joyner. “Racism and Real Life.” Radical Teacher, no. 80, Dec. 2007, pp. 12–18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=29363695&site=ehost-live.
Kakutani, Michiko. “Light Out, Huck, They still want to Sivilize you.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, pp. 304-306
Milliken, Emma. “The Humanity/Ies of Huck Finn: A Journey Down the River of Hope.” Journal of College Admission, no. 216, Summer 2012, pp. 2–3. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=85798913&site=ehost-live.
Smith, David. “From Huck, Jim and American Racial Discourse.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, pp. 296-298.
Twain, Mark. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The Norton Anthology American Literature, pp.108-290.