Huckleberry Finn Censorship

Changes Will Reach a Wider Audience

When Auburn University English professor Alan Gribben announced his intent to publish a censored version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, replacing “nigger” with “slave” and “Injun” with “Indian,” controversy ensued.

Academics can cry censorship, but the new version will be far more accessible by introducing the work toa wider audience . Even at schools where the novel is allowed, parental consent is often required before reading due to its racial slurs. A less offensive version will allow more people to appreciate this masterpiece.

Times have drastically changed since Twain published Huckleberry Finn. It’s a literary masterpiece with a message of equality too often drowned in a sea of controversy over the word “nigger.”

If films like “The Godfather” are regularly censored on TV to be more accessible to a wider audience, applying a similar censorship to the classics isn’t much of a stretch. Adjusting the harsher elements could ease parents’ concerns over the novel, and allow the novel to reach more students.

While the edits might sacrifice some of the edge that has made Twain’s novel so pervasive, they’re a fair compromise if a wider audience is exposed to the book’s cry for equality — which is far more timeless than the choice of language.

— Bridgett Rangel-Rexford

Staff Writer

Watered-Down Novel Ignores History

Alan Gribben’s brash attempt to sanitize history by replacing “nigger” with ‘slave’ undermines the novel’s historical significance.

There is a reason why pejoratives are used in the novel: They reveal the racial climate of the time.

One of the most important messages of the novel is of interracial fraternity. It would be unthinkable to alter The Great Gatsby because of how women are portrayed, or to re-write all the classics in the interest of political correctness.

If all controversial books were to follow suit, we would find ourselves reading watered-down versions of the greats — Kidz Bop for classic literature.

Racial slurs aren’t acceptable, but racism won’t be eliminated through censorship. Educators shouldn’t pretend race is a non-issue by teaching the victorious aspects of history and ignoring the parts that make us most uncomfortable.

Novels like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn allow students to confront race in the classroom and to understand its roots. A revealing lesson in American history shouldn’t leave students with a positive, uplifting feeling, but expose the truth of our country’s past.

— Saad Asad

Staff Writer

Censoring Removes Satirical Effect

The term “nigger” is disgusting, cruel and long-outdated, to be sure, but it serves to contextualize the novel.

What makes Twain’s writing so radical is that in a time when the hatred and cruelty in the South were still rampant, Twain had the guts to use satire to show how wrong it was. The use of the word “nigger” further reinforces Twain’s critique of slavery. By removing a key element of Twain’s satire, the book loses its critical edge.

Set in the early 1800s and published in 1884, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an attack on racism. By humanizing Jim, a black man who escapes slavery, and breaking down the racist assumptions that propelled slavery, Twain demonstrates his disgust with discrimination and unfair treatment toward blacks.

In fact, Twain’s use of the term throughout the book — to vilify Huck’s barbaric father and white slave owners, who constantly use it — emboldens its critique.

To remove the work from its original context — as its opponents are attempting to do today by making it 21st-century PC — is to strip the book of its power. There’s no place for casual use of the slur today, but its appearance in Twain’s novel illuminates the dehumanizing nature of slavery better than any censored version could.

— Arik Burakovsky

Staff Writer

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$2505
$5000
Contributed
Our Goal