English / Mark Twain: Racist Or Writer Of Time

Mark Twain: Racist Or Writer Of Time

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Autor:  anton  15 May 2011
Tags:  Racist,  Writer
Words: 2114   |   Pages: 9
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“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Racist or Writer of Era”

What would you think if you heard “nigger” or “poor white trash” in every other sentence in a novel you were reading? Society usually reflects its ideals and standards through its most popular literature. Every prejudice and standard of inequality are all stated and accepted as the way of life. Most authors will create their publishing that will be adverse in the way the society sees itself. This is the way Twain approached with “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. He used a plot that dealt with such controversial topics such as mental & physical abuse in all aspects. Because of the language Twain uses in his novel, many today believe it to promote racism. In turn, they have called for banishment in school systems. I believe if people could get beyond Twain’s language in the novel, which is a reflection in which it was written, many would understand that this is a writing of era, not one to discriminate against races. In my opinion, I do not see where it could influence students to think in this manner. He wrote in a time in which these phrases and words were commonplace. I believe that his writing would give children great insight into the time and era in which he wrote. Children are far more accepting of differences in races and people as a whole than ever before.

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“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was story of Huck’s struggle to win freedom for himself and Jim, a Negro slave. The main character, Huckleberry Finn, spends much time in the novel floating down the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Before he does so, however, Huck spends some time in the fictional town of St. Petersburg where a number of people attempt to

Influence him. Huck’s feelings grow stronger through the novel especially in his feelings toward his friends, family, blacks, and society. Throughout the book, Huck usually looks into his own heart for guidance. Moral intuition is the basis on which his character rests on.

As the story continues, Huck and Jim’s friendship took plenty of time to develop and had many bumps in the road; their relationship develops into a strong one that will last a long time. Through it all, Huck triumphed over society and followed his heart, and Jim helped Huck to mature and became free. Their journey to friendship is one to remember. Huck is a developing character throughout the novel. Much of his development is due to his association with Jim and his increasing respect for the black man. Huck and Jim start their long journey down the Mississippi River to Cairo where Jim will find his freedom. It is on this journey where Huck slowly develops a respectful friendship with Jim. Later fate decides to test Huck and they run into a group of slave hunters. Huck is still a little confused between right and wrong and decides to turn Jim in, but at the last second Huck begins to lie in order to keep Jim from being discovered. Throughout the course of the novel Huck changed from a boy who shared the narrow-minded opinion which looked down on Negroes, to one where he viewed

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them as equals. In my opinion this would be his greatest emotional step in the novel. Huck is a very personable narrator. He tells his story in plain language. It is through his precise trusting eyes that the reader sees the world through his novel.

I believe that “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a book that can be used to explain racial conflict in the years ago when racism was first introduced. People that feel as though this book should be ban should realize that we are still living in a time that racism exists. I see people that feel as though this book is racist have their own issues with race, and you should lighten up when the issues come up. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” should be allowed in all public school systems in the United States, and actually it should be mandated for students to read this book. With that being said, his writing did not come without critics. Unfortunately, Twain did not live long enough to see how his writing caused such a uproar in modern day society. Critics such as Kaye, Sloan, Scott, and Hurt, voice their opinions very vividly.

Many people feel the same as I do. Twain opened light to what many have not be told; what many have no explanation to what happened in history. Frances Kaye states that Twain “sugar coats reality”. She believes that it helps you swallow the bitter pill of reality, which is our very own history. I believe she felt as though Twain brought a brighter light on the shameful acts of our fathers. I believe that the words contained within “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” may be hard to take, but it was written about a time in which these words and thought

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processes were accepted. I believe Kaye to be one that feels as though “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is considered racists by the way that it is taught inside the classroom. I do see where students, if the history has not been taught, would see this novel to be written by a racist. With the insecurities of the

African American community and the shame of the white ancestry, Kaye feels as though she can see how one would consider Twain to be racist. She feels as though the writing, if not explained correctly, could uncover harsh feelings in the world around us. The issue that needs to be handled is one of racial terms being taught inside of the class room. It is a harsh world, and I feel as though parents should be the first to explain our country’s history, and how we as Americans can get over these conflicting issues.

I believe that Twain felt as though every citizens of this country should be awaken to reality in itself. Many people felt this, and Karen Sloan was one of those people. Karen Sloan thought of Twain as one who explored racism soon after the civil war unlike many other contemporary authors. She felt as though Twain had concealed messages that caused an uproar. Sloan thinks that Huck has just confided to his readers that Jim “was right, he was most always right; he had an uncommon level head for a nigger” (93). Sloan also states that “Huck, however, who is white and whom the courts have protected in the past, decides “you can’t learn a nigger to argue” (98), and the two reach a problem that is never resolved.” Sloan states also, “ In December 1885, Twain wrote to the president of Yale University, “We have ground the manhood out of them [‘the other color’], and the shame is ours, not theirs, and we should pay for it” (“Letter”). Apologists

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for Twain have often used this comment as primary evidence of his antiracist attitude, but he was simply repeating in private an opinion that he had already

publicly intimated in the King Sollermun episode of Huckleberry Finn.” I believe that Sloan is one that believes that Twain was not a racist; that he was somehow

trying to make realization of the world around him. Her message is very clear and easy to read when you get to the bottom line, and that is that Twain’s

“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is not one of racist content, but one that tells what has gone on in the world.

In the world today, people are raised with many beliefs. Beliefs about religions, values, and racial issues are handed down in many generations of family life. Racial conflict is one that is a conflict in many families today. People are scared to be “open minded” in daily life. Kevin M Scott was one of those people that feel the same as I do. Kevin M. Scott states, “To reveal Jim as a character more adroit at deception and concealment than anyone else in the novel, whose actions constitute a careful "maneuvering for survival," and who uses his carefully constructed and maintained minstrel mask to his own advantage.” Scott gets this idea from writer Forest G. Robinson. Scott feels that the “conflict” with the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is not one of the language or conditions used in the book. He feels as though the real conflict with this book come from the ending, where everyone can see Tom change roles. He feels as though the treatment of Jim in this manner can be how Twain is considered racist. I feel as though Scott believed that these were descriptions of

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Southern honor and racism; and, I believe that this is the same as today. It seems Scott felt as though that Twain found it to be morally imaginative when it came to the ending of the book. He tried to avoid the ending to avoid controversy, and Scott feels as though that is the primary problem with the book.

Everyone has a conscience. A conscience is a natural process that everyone has. Huck, I feel, like many others, did have a conscience, and Twain was sure to express that in his writing. Matthew Hurt feels as though Huck is in a situation where he is caught dealing with what he has been taught growing up, and having an issue with his conscience. Although he doesn’t mind playing bad tricks on Jim, however, does

not feel bad about it. We as society now would not allow this kind of behavior from Huck, but it was a way of living back in those times. Hurt feel as though Twain wrote this in history standpoint. This book was written exactly as things happened in this era. Hurt and I believe that in order to not repeat our forefathers’ indiscretions, we must learn from them.

With these four sources, I can see why the book is so controversial. It deals with issues that are still a problem today. Racial conflict is one of the touchiest subjects in the world, and when it is brought into the classroom, people can expect for issues to arrive. I feel as though this is a part of our history. Twain wrote this during an era in which these things were real. Life isn’t always beautiful as we all know. Neither was our country’s past.

Our ancestors, both African American and white, did many things that both races are not proud of. Hurt was completed on both parts to make American

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History a touchy subject. I know there were times that I was in school, and when it was mentioned that my Great-Great Grandfather was a slave owner, many African Americans did not seem to understand this happened many years ago. Many had hatred toward me, but however, many soon realized that by history, I

could not change what my ancestors had done. Although I regret their past indiscretions, there is nothing that my family or I can do to make them right.

Twain used this novel to show us a glimpse into one of the past eras of time. However, the repercussions of banishing this novel would be that people would lose the opportunity to gain prospective on life as it was back in those days. Maybe we all should try to see this piece of literature from a different prospective. We could use it as a tool to see how far we have come as a society. My firm belief has always been that you must know your history in order to learn from it. Otherwise you are certainty doomed to repeat the same mistakes of our forefathers. As hard and painful as it may be to hear, no matter which side of this history you come from, it is of the utmost importance to never forget where you came from and the lessons that we have all learned from them.

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Works Cited

Frances, Kay W. Canadian Review of American Studies.Volume 29 Number 1. Race and Reading: The Burden of Huckleberry Finn. 1999. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=7&hid=13&sid=bcf367e9-7428-435c-9cf0-0c12b0214645%40sessionmgr9

Hurt, Matthew; Explicator, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 2005 Fall; 64 (1): 41-44. (journal article) http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=13&hid=13&sid=bcf367e9-7428-435c-9cf0-0c12b0214645%40sessionmgr9

Scott, Kevin Michael. 'There's More Honor': Reinterpreting Tom and the Evasion in Huckleberry. ) 2005 Summer; 37 (2): 187 (journal article) http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?vid=18&hid=13&sid=bcf367e9-7428-435c-9cf0-0c12b0214645%40sessionmgr9

Sloan, Karen. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . Explicator, 2005 Spring; 63 (3): 159-64. (journal article) http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=19&hid=13&sid=bcf367e9-7428-435c-9cf0-0c12b0214645%40sessionmgr9

Clemens, Samuel Langhorne. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. New York: W&W Norton Company, 1977.



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