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The "N" Word and Classic Literature

 
 
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 02:39 pm
The N*gger word has been exorcised from the latest edition
http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2011/0105/The-n-word-gone-from-Huck-Finn-what-would-Mark-Twain-say

So how do you see this issue? Whitewashing? Censorship? A cultural adjustment? Other?

For those overly sensitive/overly protective parents?
And according to Twain himself:
Quote:
Twain responded: "I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote 'Tom Sawyer' & 'Huck Finn' for adults exclusively, & it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave."

Many items viewed as cultural works best suited for children were not meant for young children in the first place.

So? The surgical removal of this acid splash word? Good, bad, or ugly?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 25 • Views: 11,345 • Replies: 78

 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 02:42 pm
I support the newly edited Twain book. Now, that great tale can be appreciated by everybody. Adults and whoever can still access the original, while the kids and offended can have the new telling. It's a win win situation.
edgarblythe
 
  0  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 02:44 pm
@edgarblythe,
There are other great works that ought to be done the same way. Of Mice and Men comes to mind.
0 Replies
 
aidan
 
  6  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 03:08 pm
I think it's unfortunate. A writer creates a character, sense of time and place and tells a story uniquely and completely, employing word choice that creates that specific reality.

If the word is used gratuitously it'd be one thing. But I think the word used in the context of writings by Mark Twain, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, John Steinbeck, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and on and on and on, fits and adds to the authenticity of the reader's experience of that particular time and place.

Why try to create something other than what the author was intent on creating?
Why create another reality, and in essence, tell a lie?
Will the word be excised from every novel or poem from that period? Will it look as if racism and prejudice, spoken and/or otherwise. were not as rabid and rampant as they were?

And what word will be used in its stead?

No - I think it's wrong to do and really unforgiveable in terms of changing the author's message and creation.
Letty
 
  3  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 03:18 pm
@aidan,
I agree with you, aidan. What better way to teach a child about the evils of slavery than to compare, "That was then; this is now" theory.

Jim's escape

After the four fugitives have drifted far enough from the town, the King takes advantage of Huck's temporary absence to sell his interest in the "escaped" slave Jim for forty dollars. Outraged by this betrayal, Huck rejects the advice of his "conscience," which continues to tell him that in helping Jim escape to freedom, he is stealing Miss Watson's property. Accepting that "All right, then, I'll go to hell!", Huck resolves to free Jim.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  4  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 03:38 pm
@tsarstepan,
Thanks for sharing Clemens own words. Pretty fascinating.

I'm square against any revisionism. The lesson to be learned for a modern-day child old enough to understand the issues of HIS time era is explained by Clemens own words about his word choices.
realjohnboy
 
  4  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 04:11 pm
@Ragman,
I vote with Ragman (and others) on this. This "revisionism" strikes me as political correctness run amuck. Let the original words remain and serve as a starting point for how societal attitudes have changed over time.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  3  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 04:14 pm
@tsarstepan,
Dreadful.
Ragman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 04:23 pm
@ehBeth,
Yeah - next thing we know, in Gone With the Wind, Rhett will be heard to say, "Frankly Charlotte, I don't give a darn!" Now that will be the end of the world as we know it.
farmerman
 
  5  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 04:47 pm
@Ragman,
Off head top, I recalled a poem from High School by Carl Sandburg
Quote:
I AM the nigger.
Singer of songs,
Dancer. . .
Softer than fluff of cotton. . .
Harder than dark earth
Roads beaten in the sun
By the bare feet of slaves. . .
Foam of teeth. . . breaking crash of laughter. . .
Red love of the blood of woman,
White love of the tumbling pickaninnies. . .
Lazy love of the banjo thrum. . .
Sweated and driven for the harvest-wage,
Loud laugher with hands like hams,
Fists toughened on the handles,
Smiling the slumber dreams of old jungles,
Crazy as the sun and dew and dripping, heaving life
of the jungle,
Brooding and muttering with memories of shackles:
I am the nigger.
Look at me.
I am the nigger.
Is it racist? sure. Is it a poem of importance? yeh

Wed also need to revise
HARPER LEE
GILBERT AND SULLIVAN
LANGSTON HUGHES
JOSEPH CONRAD
P. WODEHOUSE
GRAHAM GREENE
RUDYARD KIPLING

and any of the African literature that uses the word "kaffir"
Cmon. the Goddam Book Huck Finn, was an anti racist manifesto. The words used are part of the language and the means to unroll the manifesto.

If I see a copy of revisionist Huck, I swear Ill soil it.
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:13 pm
@farmerman,
Steinbeck

Mcmurtry

Elmore leonard.

These are all the sins I remember Father and I ask for penance and forgivness
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:17 pm
@farmerman,
James Baldwin
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:22 pm
why don''t they just change it to "n-word jim", or take a page out of larry king's book and use "n-person"
farmerman
 
  3  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:23 pm
@Ragman,
IMHO , to have two versions of Huck Finn requires more "passing the buck" and making kids go foind out what the original says , and, knowing how kids can be unknowingly ultra cruel and insensitive, they would keep the stereotype phrases in use until at sometime, later, when WE think that they are old enough to understand. I say, lets not defer such understanding and lets let them know early what racism really begets. Its not that they wont hear the term used during the years when they read the watered down version.

I will soil it should I see it.
Ragman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:24 pm
@djjd62,
Oh and then of course, there's Darwin:

Darwinist Theory and Racism
"Another well-referenced argument for racism was given by Charles Darwin. Darwin himself was an unapologetic white supremacist. In fact, his treatise on evolution is titled in full The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin believed blacks were the least among all races, more ape than human, although to be fair this notion was in line with the prevailing racist assumptions of the Victorian era."
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:25 pm
@farmerman,
agreed.

The point I was trying to make is the mature (and maturing) reader benefits from knowing the sins and misdeeds that mankind has foisted on society. To launder this out is to destroy the reference points. Without such mishigas, children can't grasp how bad it once was.
0 Replies
 
mags314772
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 05:57 pm
@Ragman,
wasn't that "FRANKLY, my dear........I don't give a damn"? And I think it was SCARLETT
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 06:01 pm
@mags314772,
I think it was Rhett, but frankly I don't give a gosh-darn.
0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 06:02 pm
@mags314772,
i think ragman might be thinking of Charlottes Web Razz
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 5 Jan, 2011 06:17 pm
Books have been bastardized, cheapened and taken apart, particularly in the late 20TH Century and early 21ST, for movies, games, comic books, cheaply rewritten and published editions, by the thousands. Strangely, the original versions survive.
0 Replies
 
 

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