'Finn' censorship alters history
Published: Sunday, January 9, 2011
Updated: Sunday, January 9, 2011 19:01
There are many words and phrases that tend to make us squirm or cringe, but that doesn't mean we can just remove them from the English language.
It seems one publishing company — NewSouth Books — is making an attempt to do so by censoring the contemporary American novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.
In case you can't remember from your high school literature class, "Huckleberry Finn" in a nutshell is about a young boy's adventures traveling down the Mississippi River circa 1840.
Because the book is set before the Civil War, it tends to demonstrate racist themes and vocabulary.
That's right, we're talking about the N-word.
NewSouth Books is set to release an edited version of the novel next month that replaces the N-word with "slave" and injun with "Indian."
The tasteless and racist nature of the offending noun mentioned 219 times in "Huckleberry Finn" has caused controversy among teachers and scholars for decades.
Some teachers have been reluctant to teach the book and similar novels, feeling that it makes themselves and students feel uncomfortable.
We hate to sound insensitive and we do understand the seriousness of the word, but the word is out there and we can't just remove it entirely from our lexicon.
Let's not forget, too, that removing the word alters the message of the novel entirely.
"The book is an anti-racist book and to change the language changes the power of the book," said Cindy Lovell, executive director of The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Mo.
Twain did not write to please the masses, he wrote to create an emotional reaction, even if it wasn't a pleasant one.
It'd be nice if America's history were entirely blemish free, but clearly it is not. We feel that censoring this novel is equivalent to trying to censor our nation's past, a practice we absolutely won't stand for.
This piece of literature has been in circulation for more than a century, it's ingrained in our nation's cultural history and to change it now could drastically alter our country's academic future.
We wouldn't expect the Italians to cover the strikingly realistic genitals so beautifully carved onto Michelangelo's "David" and this is no different.
Censorship ruins the artistic value of a work, if Twain had meant to say "slave" instead of using the N-word, he would have.
Twain himself said that "the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter."
If Twain were alive today we can only imagine his outrage at such a blatant example of censorship and the altering of his original artwork.
"Huckleberry Finn" is an American classic that has been taught in our schools for ages and to censor such a paramount piece of literature is ludicrous.
We encourage any educators out there to stick to the original rather than adopt the edited version, which we know would make Twain roll over in his grave.