Sunday, January 9, 2011
Removing the N-word from Huckleberry Finn
People seem to be able to handle the tidying up up 'injun' (which indicates pronunciation rather than social attitude), but the removal of the N-word has infuriated many, who have let the publisher know about it in various ways.
A valid point made is that Huckleberry Finn, first published in 1884, when discrimination was a part of everyday life, is anti-racist. The constant repetition of the word, which is used 219 times in the book, is supposed to jar and make the reader uncomfortable.
There were plenty of racist words around then, just as there are today. Is the next move for some academic to remove the word 'Jew' from Shakespeare's immortal Merchant of Venice?
'Jew' had nasty racial overtones then, and Shakespeare was making the same point that Twain made nearly 300 years later.
PS. There are at least 26 instances of the N-word used in the same fashion in Tom Sawyer. Is that going to be cleaned up, too?