|Even the illustrations in Huck Finn are|
shocking by contemporary standards.
It's follow-up, The Adventures Huck Finn, was clearly social commentary. And it's one of the most effective examples in literary history. I can still remember being shocked when I read it as a kid--the characters were so racist, I wasn't sure if it was an accurate representation of that time. It was just something I couldn't wrap my 12-y.o. brain around.
Today, Forbes has an article, about a publisher in Alabama that wants to sanitize Huck Finn. To quote slashdot:
Over a hundred years after the death of its author, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will be released in a censored format removing two derogatory racial slurs: "injun" and "nigger." The latter appears some 219 times in the original novel but both will be replaced by the word "slave.
Toning down Huck Finn is really just an attempt to sanitize our national history. Children should be allowed to see a clear picture of the past--no matter how ugly--in the hope that they will so be shocked and disgusted by it that they will find it impossible to tolerate bigotry in their own lives.
I thought it was only fair to link to a blog with the opposing view. I think, the idea here, is that some (perhaps many) students will find Huck Finn personally hurtful. That is a good point; while we do need to teach kids about racism in America, we need to be very sensitive about how we do it.
However, I find the blogger's assertion that Huck Finn is not relevant today, shows her clear mis-understanding of the novel. Even if we someday reach the Dream of a society where color doesn't matter, we'll still need to study our history to keep it that way.