Thursday, 6 January 2011

'Censored' edition of Huckleberry Finn causes controversy

Whilst I was getting ready for work this morning, I was watching BBC breakfast. They featured a report on the book Huckleberry Finn by the 19th Century American author Mark Twain.

The new edition of the book coming out this year has caused controversy, as the racially offensive ‘N’ word has been removed.

There’s now a debate taking place asking whether it’s right that ‘the N word’ should be replaced or not.

I hadn’t realised that in America many schools have stopped teaching the novel, because of its racially offensive language.

Those in favour of the new edition argue it will allow more people to feel comfortable reading the book. I don’t really agree with this opinion.

You have to think about the context of the story and this is why ‘the N word’ shouldn't be replaced.

Huckleberry Finn is set during in the 1830s and 40 in America’s Deep South. This was a racist society, and slavery had yet to be abolished.

For me, removing ‘the N word’ from the book is a form of cultural vandalism!

It’s a shame that so many schools in America feel the need to ban the book.

The 2011 edition replaces the word ‘nigger’ with slave, which it’s been reported some people feel more comfortable with.

I understand this, but by removing ‘the N word’ the story will lose it’s historical and cultural relevance.

Although we might live in more enlightened times when it comes to race, it's important to remember that it wasn't always like this.

There's been a journey and progression, particularly in America in regards to race.

A book like Huckleberry Finn is like a reference point for the reader, and shows how attitudes have changed and evolved over a period of time.

At this point I should point out I’ve never actually read Huckleberry Finn, but I do have a copy at home. The book was given to my years ago by a colleague at work.

I tried reading it last year, but as the copy I have is an old edition. I found it quite difficult as the typeface isn’t very reader friendly for me.

It’s still a book I’ve always wanted to read, and I will get round to it one day.

When it comes to 'the N word' it's not as if it's a word that's disappeared from popular culture.

Anyone who listens to Hip Hop on a regular basis will hear the ‘N’ word mentioned all the time.

I’ve listened to Hip Hop for years and barely notice the word in that context. If I’m being honest I can hardly imagine listening to Hip Hop without ‘the N word’ It’s a word that’s culturally relevant to the music.

Last year I watched all 5 series of the critically acclaimed US TV drama, The Wire. Again ‘the N word’ is used a lot.

In the context of the show and the stories that are being told, the word can’t be airbrushed.

Many Societies in the past had beliefs and value systems that many of us may now find abhorrent.

That doesn't give us the right to go around editing things out and re-writing history because we don't like it.

This essentially is what some people are trying to do by censoring cultural works such as Huckleberry Finn.

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