What would Mark Twain say of this PC culture?

It was 133 years ago that Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I remember reading the Spanish version in Cuba and imagining all the stories about the Mississippi River.  In 1967, our family took a trip to Minneapolis to watch the Twins play, and we drove a portion of the river.  My brother started talking about Huck's river, as we called it in Cuba.

Many years later, and in the university, I read it again and saw the book as more than just a kid's adventure.  It was rather a look at many of the things going on, including the issue of slavery.

Just recently, a school district banned the book and the movie as well:

In general, the debate over Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has centered around the language of the book, which has been objected to on social grounds.  Huck Finn, Jim and many other characters in the book speak in regional dialects of the South.  It is a far cry from the queen's English.  More specifically, the use of the word "nigger" in reference to Jim and other African-American characters in the book, along with the portrayal of those characters, has offended some readers, who consider the book racist.

Although many critics have argued that Twain's ultimate effect is to humanize Jim and attack the brutal racism of slavery, the book frequently flagged and protested by students and parents alike.  It was the fifth most-frequently-challenged book in the United States during the 1990s, according to the American Library Association.

Yielding to public pressure, some publishers have substituted "slave" or "servant" for the term that Mark Twain uses in the book, which is derogatory to African Americans.

In 2015, an ebook version published by the company CleanReader offered a version of the book with three different filter levels – clean, cleaner, and squeaky clean – a strange edition for an author known to enjoy swearing.

Well, put me down as "negative" on all of this.

First, it is true that the book uses the "n-word," but that's how people spoke at that time.  I'm defending not the word, but rather the reality of the book.  Are we going to shut down West Side Story because of language offensive to Puerto Ricans?  I hope not!

Second, this whole debate once more highlights the intolerance of the people who preach tolerance.  Are they going to burn all of their Che T-shirts because of all those nasty quotes about blacks and Mexicans?  Are they going to stop naming streets after Cesar Chávez because of how he opposed illegal immigration?

Many years ago, my mother said something about the past.  It loosely translated to "leaving the past in its grave."  I think we should leave all books alone, learn from them, and move on.

Let some kid in the future enjoy this book as much as I did many years ago.

PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

 

It was 133 years ago that Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I remember reading the Spanish version in Cuba and imagining all the stories about the Mississippi River.  In 1967, our family took a trip to Minneapolis to watch the Twins play, and we drove a portion of the river.  My brother started talking about Huck's river, as we called it in Cuba.

Many years later, and in the university, I read it again and saw the book as more than just a kid's adventure.  It was rather a look at many of the things going on, including the issue of slavery.

Just recently, a school district banned the book and the movie as well:

In general, the debate over Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has centered around the language of the book, which has been objected to on social grounds.  Huck Finn, Jim and many other characters in the book speak in regional dialects of the South.  It is a far cry from the queen's English.  More specifically, the use of the word "nigger" in reference to Jim and other African-American characters in the book, along with the portrayal of those characters, has offended some readers, who consider the book racist.

Although many critics have argued that Twain's ultimate effect is to humanize Jim and attack the brutal racism of slavery, the book frequently flagged and protested by students and parents alike.  It was the fifth most-frequently-challenged book in the United States during the 1990s, according to the American Library Association.

Yielding to public pressure, some publishers have substituted "slave" or "servant" for the term that Mark Twain uses in the book, which is derogatory to African Americans.

In 2015, an ebook version published by the company CleanReader offered a version of the book with three different filter levels – clean, cleaner, and squeaky clean – a strange edition for an author known to enjoy swearing.

Well, put me down as "negative" on all of this.

First, it is true that the book uses the "n-word," but that's how people spoke at that time.  I'm defending not the word, but rather the reality of the book.  Are we going to shut down West Side Story because of language offensive to Puerto Ricans?  I hope not!

Second, this whole debate once more highlights the intolerance of the people who preach tolerance.  Are they going to burn all of their Che T-shirts because of all those nasty quotes about blacks and Mexicans?  Are they going to stop naming streets after Cesar Chávez because of how he opposed illegal immigration?

Many years ago, my mother said something about the past.  It loosely translated to "leaving the past in its grave."  I think we should leave all books alone, learn from them, and move on.

Let some kid in the future enjoy this book as much as I did many years ago.

PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.