Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. – Mark Twain.
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This quote by Mark Twain himself holds a lot of symbolism for his book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because they both encourage people to open up their minds as opposed to keeping the same thoughts their whole lives and even passing those thoughts down to their children. Some individuals may believe that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be taught because they believe the language to be insensitive. However, because the powers of ignorance and intellectual and ethical challenges that Twain brings up in the novel are crucial to the education of current American high school students, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should continue to be immersed in the young minds of Americas adolescents.
Initially, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn encourages people to open up their minds. In the article Fight Over Huck Finn Continues: Ed School Professor Wages Battle for Twain Classic Professor Jocelyn Chadwick argues in favor of Huckleberry Finn. She states that, Sometimes we need something provocative because it will spark conversation. (Powell 2) By this she means that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will start important discussions about sensitive topics that make people think. Without new thoughts, the human race would be stuck in an unpoppable bubble. In the comic White washed, by Matt Bors, Bors illustrates many novels all with a common theme: controversy. The cover of a classic novel, Lolita was shown with the caption of A slight revision, shes 18!. (Bors) This refers to the controversy around Lolitas age. This is similar to the idea of language revision in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because of the difference it makes to the point of the book. Sadly, some people, like the Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP believe that the book should be removed from required reading lists in both high schools, and colleges noting that, What the NAACP has done is take up a posture that the book as written is not good for America. (Powell 2) This, however, could actually be damaging in itself. Chadwick remarks, Twain did not write a novel thats meant to make you feel good. (Powell 2) Chadwick touches again upon the point of the novel. During an NPR call, a caller (only referred to simply as James), comments, Is this still Mark Twain? …And I think my first impulse was exactly correct, this is not Mark Twain. (Conan 2) His response is shared by many others. He shares it because he wants people to know that Professor Gribben (the guest on the show at the time) was attempting to shield people from these important conversation starters about race in America.
Additionally, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn addresses the powers that ignorance can have. In an untitled cartoon, a man in a vest labeled PC makes a satirical comment in the caption. The caption reads, He was a mighty good African American man of color and celebrant of Kwanzaa, Jim was, said Huckleberry. (Associated Press) The point of this caption (along with a ingenuine, with a tinge of eeriness. The cartoon pokes fun at the idea of a perfect society in which everything is censored for political correctness. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Many people see Huckleberry Finn as a mischievous boy who is a bad influence on others. The Widow Douglas and Miss Watson try to “”sivilize””(Ch. 3) Huckleberry by picking at him, stop his smoking, and in his mind, ruin his fun. He remarks, The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldnt stand it no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went back. (Ch. 3) They try to force him to become their stereotypical good little southern boy. The town was also ignorant to and disapproving of Huckleberry. The only time that the town’s people are able to put aside their views of Huck was when there was excitement to be found, like when they all crowded on the steamboat to see if the cannons can bring Huck’s body to the surface after he faked his own death. But this is only after he is presumed dead. They take on these views to follow society in its ignorance. Few of them would have cared about Huck before because they didn’t know him and didn’t want to know him.
Finally, the intellectual and ethical challenges that Twain brings up in the novel are essential for young adults to interpret and would suffer if those texts were to be taken away. By focusing on Hucks education Mark Twain fine tunes other themes in the book related to race. As a poor, uneducated boy, Huck distrusts the morals and precepts of the society that treats him as an outcast and fails to protect him from abuse. This apprehension about society, and his growing relationship with Jim, lead Huck to question many of the teachings that he has received, especially regarding race and slavery. Huck chooses to go to hell(Ch. 31) rather than going along with the rules and follow what he has been taught by the Widow Douglas and Miss Watson. It was a close place. I took . . . up [the letter Id written to Miss Watson], and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because Id got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: All right then, Ill go to hell and tore it up. It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. (Ch. 31) Huck bases these decisions on his experiences, and his own sense of rationalization. On the raft, away from society, Huck is especially free from the status quo, able to make his own decisions without any restrictions. He says We said there warnt no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft dont. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft. (Ch. 18) Through reflection, he comes to his own conclusions about race, money, and human behavior/ethics. By the end of the novel, Huck has learned to interpret the world around him using his own views, to distinguish malicious from pure. His moral development is sharply contrasted by Tom Sawyer, who is influenced by adventure novels and Sunday-school teachings, which he combines to justify his ostentatious and potentially dangerous adventures.
As things stand now, HF still sparks controversy in the minds of some Americans, but considering the important themes and elements that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses, it is a valuable work of American Literature for adolescent high school students.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain, 2008.
Associated Press. Editorial Cartoons: Reaction to Censorship of Mark Twain; Did Samuel Clemens Know Huck Finn Would Kick up a Ruckus over a Certain Word? NJ.com, NJ.com, 9 Jan. 2011, www.nj.com/hudson/voices/index.ssf/2011/01/editorial_cartoons_reaction_to.html.
Conan, Neil Publisher Edits Twain Classics To Remove Slurs. NPR, NPR, 5 Jan. 2011, www.npr.org/2011/01/05/132681463/publisher-edits-twain-classics-to-remove-slurs.
Powell, Alvin. Fight over Huck Finn Continues: Ed School Professor Wages Battle for Twain Classic. Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 20 Sept. 2016, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2000/09/fight-over-huck-finn-continues-ed-school-professor-wages-battle-for-twain-classic/
White Wash. Matt Bors, mattbors.com/blog/2011/01/10/white-wash/index.html. “
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