Friday, April 29, 2011

Huck Finn

Here is a really interesting link, from Costco (believe it or not), debating if "classics" should be sanitized or not. This is timely, given the recent re-working of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

As a historian and educator, I feel that we shouldn't tamper with the original works. Looking at fiction provides us with insight into the societal and political problems of a decade. For example, Huck Finn gives a modern audience information about racial issues in America. Some are critical of Twain for the language used; however, it is only a product of the times that Twain lived. As another example (although not as controversial), Jude the Obscure (one of my all-time favourite novels) shows us about the treatment of strong women during the 19th century. When Hardy published the book, he was lambasted for depicting sexual relationships outside of marriage, and, indeed, his novel critiques the treatment of these unmarried couples too (poor Sue and Jude!). When we sanitize these historic novels, we deny our own shortcomings as human beings. We need to be honest with literature and with ourselves.


  1. I agree that it should not be tampered with. The Mark Twain house is a half hour drive from our home in Connecticut. We visited it recently and developed a new appreciation for Twain and his place in literary history.

  2. I used to live in Buffalo, New York, which also has its own Samuel Clemens connection.

    Twain and Beecher Stowe are two of those unique authors that actively tried to change American societal views on the treatment African-Americans. Sure their books occasionally drop racial slurs; however, those racial slurs do provide insight into the white hegemony that existed in 19th century America (or basically until the civil rights movement).