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Re: NAACP seeks ban on Huck Finn classic
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re: NAACP seeks ban on Huck Finn classic
- From: Darlene Sybert <c557506@SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU>
- Date: Wed, 4 Feb 1998 13:35:15 -0600
- In-Reply-To: <199802040900.DAA77726@mail.missouri.edu>
- Message-Id: <199802041936.LAA25589@lindy.stanford.edu>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: The list for all the book arts!" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
On Wed, 4 Feb 1998, MSN wrote:
> "I can think of many fights that have occurred when persons of color
> have been called 'n-----,' " NAACP member George Love said at a
> Harrisburg news conference. "It is insulting to African-American
> students to sit in a classroom while the term is used in required
> reading." The 1884 novel about a white boy's first-person account of
> his adventures along the Mississippi River with a runaway slave named
> Jim has been controversial for decades because of its use of racial
> slurs and its representations of blacks and women.
An interesting news release.
And if PA banns all the writing that denigrates or misrepresents
women, it will have to include most published fiction. In fact, any
American or Eugropean work of fiction that did not include characters
with unenlightened attitudes about women would misrepresent the culture
about which it was written
On the other hand, I've studied Huck Finn (and literature with
similar representations of minorities and women) in many classes
at various Universitiesy and in high schools as well. Always, students--
including women and minorities--have understood that they are reading
a story portraying life as it was not life as we wish it had been or as it
would have been if the people really believed in liberty and justice for
all. In fact, there may not be a better piece of literature in American
writing--and certainly there's not one that's also as amusing--to
stimulate a discussion of the power of language, the effects of ignorance,
the usual short sightedness of even the most well-meaning, why we treat
people the way we do, the deleterious effect of oppression on
oppressed and oppressor alike and many other subjects that need to be
understood to be "well-educated..."
It is particularly amusing to me that Huck Finn is singled out for
banning so often on the basis of its "slurs" and descriptions of
oppression. It means the instigators of the bann have not read the book.
Fundamentally, the book is a vehicle for Mark Twain to ridicule the
attitudes and behavior of white men towards the black, men towards
women and any other ridiculous social realtionships that he can work into
the wandering plot--not that he doesn't also expose the foolishness of
blacks and women when they are complicit in their own submission. And
then, of course, some of the women in HF do come close to the 21st
Century Ideal which was one more reason that many original readers
were either horrified or amused--either of which can sell books...
And if Mark Twain had written a book that portrayed men and women
and blacks and whites treating each other with respect as equals; if
he had portrayed the poor, uneducated Huck treating Jim any other way,
Twain's book would have been labeled unrealistic by his editor and
never published, or if published, little read and soon forgotten.
You can't make any money that way...and MT did have to make a living.
Thank God, he decided to make it writing humorous, but realistic novels
about the Nineteenth Century...lest we forget...
+ [_] ( )
Darlene Sybert ' |( : )
ABD doctoral candidate in English
Leave smiles and good will everywhere you go
And they'll be waiting for you when you return.