Why Huckleberry Finn should stay on the syllabus
- It represents a historical time period that is problematic.
- Erasing that American culture invalidates the suffering that people of color experienced. By not acknowledging that mindset and stigmas, we are teaching students that it did not exist and therefore undermining people of color today’s history. That being said it needs to be taught in a manner that clearly points out the problematic undertones and microaggressions of the book– even if its purpose was to support anti-slavery.
- It is a story that had a major impact on American literature, and an influential writing style that inspired many novels for the future generations.
- Twain’s novels challenged the fundamental issues that faced the America of his time; racism, evolving landscapes, class barriers, access to education and more
- It is a satire of society.
- Separated from society Huck listens to his moral conscience without the enforcement of others and finds it on his own. By being separated from society he has the opportunity to learn his own values and decide to save Jim even if its against the law/ his upbringing. This act also challenges the concept that laws are solely human constructs that should constantly be questioned in order to progress society and religion. He found that his morals go against his religion and declared,“All right, then, I’ll go to hell!” Where stealing “property” is sinful, but Jim is his friend and he knows in his heart that he must put friendship first. The concept being challenged is not his own values rather than this situation would be different if Jim was not considered property. As well as if this little boy, who is clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed (although he has a few redeeming moments) is able to understand that people are not property– the rest of an educated society should be able to grasp that too.
- In reality this is a children’s story that is meant to introduce more mature topics into conversation.
- A lot of the discussed topics from the story revolve around its themes rather than the plot and purpose. It is inherently a “boy’s adventure tale” and should be taken as one. It is not some indoctrinated book that defines American civilization, though with its effect on American literature people treat it as so.
Why Huckleberry Finn is still problematic.
- It’s undermining sexist assumptions about women and their roles in society.
- Just one example is “The Widow” — she is his primary mother figure and she isn’t even given a name. She is defined by her lack of male figure in her life and is labeled by that title, restricting her to a single role.
- The language.
- There is a very racist language using historical terms that are extremely offensive and should not be thrown about in discussion. If read its language should be addressed as what it was– since we are currently residing in modern times where society has evolved. Slurs are not appropriate or excusable to toss in even for “historical accuracy.”
- The conclusion.
- We work all the way up to Huck finding a sense of moral and deciding to save Jim yet when he does– tom sawyer reverses his character growth. Not only harming Jim’s character presence during the escape through gaslighting the poor man, but regressing Hack back into a morally gray child that does not see the importance of his actions. This conclusion I believe was meant to be a satire showing that society and privileged people (including Tom) have a different perspective that subtracts from morality and seeing both sides of a story. But since the ending is still vague with much room for interpretation– it can be misused to promote a racist argument and muddle the conversation the story opened up.
Despite the controversy, one cannot discount the book’s importance. And I personally believe that it should be kept for a lot of reasons. While I also believe it takes a lot of patience and time addressing the issues and ambiguous topics in the novel.