Friday, January 07, 2011

Whitewashing Huck Finn

In case you haven't heard, a professor at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama named Alan Gribben is coming out with a dual edition of Mark Twain's classics TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN. In the books Gribben has deleted all uses of the word "injun" (such as Injun Joe) and changed all uses of "nigger" to "slave". It doesn't surprise me because it seems that the more politically correct our institutions become the crazier society becomes. However, I think it is a terrible idea that's not only a complete disrespect to Twain, but an attempt to whitewash history. You can't eradicate the past. What has been done has been done. If you pretend to ignore it, society will eventually repeat those mistakes. Gribben maintains that his version will allow the books to be taught in more schools and allow more students an opportunity to read the books. However, at a deeper level Gribben's edition of the books does the exact opposite of what he claims.

I like how Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times puts it: "Haven’t we learned by now that removing books from the curriculum just deprives children of exposure to classic works of literature? Worse, it relieves teachers of the fundamental responsibility of putting such books in context — of helping students understand that “Huckleberry Finn” actually stands as a powerful indictment of slavery (with Nigger Jim its most noble character), of using its contested language as an opportunity to explore the painful complexities of race relations in this country. To censor or redact books on school reading lists is a form of denial: shutting the door on harsh historical realities — whitewashing them or pretending they do not exist."

Read more the whole The New York Times article here.


Richard said...

We've published a much cooler version of Huckleberry Finn, one with every occurrence of the N-word replaced by the word "hipster."

TV said...

Very funny, Richard.