'Huckleberry Finn': Mark Twain's Intentions and Context

Thursday, January 06, 2011

On Wednesday we looked at a new edition of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" that will be released in February without the "n-word." We covered the social, cultural and literary implications of the decision and got many, many responses. What was the racial and linguistic context into which Mark Twain wrote "Huckleberry Finn?" To look at the novel in historical perspective, we speak with Bob Hirst, editor of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley. 


Bob Hirst

Produced by:

Andrea Swalec

Comments [6]

Roy from Queens, New York

The more we're afraid of words, the more we're afraid of ourselves. :(

Jan. 07 2011 10:58 AM
Margaret from Manhattan

(Wed 1/5) Should Huckleberry Finn have "the 'N' word" deleted for young kids - my first thought NO, it's a historic book; my second, there are children's Bibles. But it's not like Shakespeare, where you've got to include a glossary all throughout, and even the top rank publisher of it allows modernization where they aren't changing the meaning. Substituting
"slave" is actually changing the meaning. Even if all Africans were slaves at the time - and they weren't - what's meant by "the 'N' word" didn't refer to economic/work status. What you really need to do is have your kids be people who won't use the word, regardless of whether they encounter it or not (especially in a historic novel it honestly belongs in). History shouldn't be falsified; it should be explained. I don't think there should be children's Bibles - just have language be learned. Enough that modern 'adult' Bibles have the language changed. How much of what is lost over eras? How would you know?

Jan. 06 2011 03:40 PM
Raymond McGarry from Weston Missouri

Will THEY want to change the history books next?

Jan. 06 2011 10:35 AM
Lindsay Knapp from Portland, Maine

I'm feeling like Joan Rivers a lot lately -- half the things I read or hear make me want to scream "Grow up!" Are we going to eradicate mick, spic, kike and wop, too? The book is the book; our history is our history. It's not always pretty, but at least it's truthful. Leave the book alone!

Jan. 06 2011 09:05 AM
Lavonda Wilson

I have no problem with the 'N' word if people would also discuss books that have the words 'cracker' and 'peckerwood' in them!

Jan. 06 2011 08:55 AM
Peg Erickson from Brewster, Cape Cod

RE: authors agonize over every word - don't have the exact quote from Twain, but he said, in effect, "...one word can make all the difference... e.g., 'lightning' vs. 'lightning bug'" Don't think you're doing Twain a service by expurgating anything from his works.

Jan. 06 2011 06:50 AM

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