Literary Criticism Huckleberry Finn Racism Essay

1 Racism and the Debate Over Teaching Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn In today’s American society, which is considered to be post-racial, there are still discrepancies about what is and is not racist. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ( Huckleberry Finn ) is one of the great American novels; it is also one of the novels considered to be racist, and many feel that it should be taken out of the school curriculum. Considering the United States’ widely diverse culture and the history behind the nation, the debate over Huckleberry Finn is one that is influenced by many parents, educators, and most importantly, students. The novel is considered the one that all other American literature stems from, but it is almost constantly brought under scrutiny for the racial aspects, the sexist qualities and the almost laughable ending. The debate over whether or not the book is truly racist strongly impacts the decision on whether or not the book should be taught in the American public school classroom. While there are racial elements in the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the novel as a whole is not racist and should still be taught in the upper levels of public school because of the historical realism and the true meaning that Mark Twain meant to represent. The use of the n-word in Huckleberry Finn causes a huge reaction to the novel. Obviously, there are different reactions depending on culture, historical opinions, and what race one happens to be. However, one also has to take into account Twain’s usage of the word, and what he wants the word to symbolize. While many do not approve of Twain’s usage in Huckleberry Finn, it is not implied that he uses the term in a racial way. The use of the n-word in the novel does not necessarily have to represent the racial opinions of Mark Twain, and does not make the novel racist. To many, using the n-word means that one implies racism and intends to degrade others. To many African Americans, the use of this term is wrong, and in today’s culture, this is true. If

Does Huck Finn Represent Racism?

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Huckleberry Finn – Does His Character Represent Racism?


Racism means "the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and the belief of one specific race's superiority". This word plays a major role in history and in this novel. Many people and many facts lead you to believe Huckleberry Finn represents racism. I, on the other hand, believe Huckleberry Finn does not represent racism.


Throughout history critics have criticized Mark Twain about Huckleberry Finn being a racist novel and Twain himself being a racist. Mark Twain, through his writings in Huckleberry Finn make it clear he does not support racism in any way. For example, Mark Twain portrayed Pap Finn, a racist, as an uneducated, alcoholic that beats his kid. On the other hand, he portrays Jim, a slave, as a caring, loving father and a trustworthy companion to Huck.

" ... the reader is presented with a very caring and father-like Jim who

becomes very worried when he loses his best friend Huck in a deep fog.

Mark Twain is pointing out the connection which has been made between

Huck and Jim. A connection which does not exist between a man and his



The story takes place when black people were not considered equal to white people. Back then the word "nigger" referred to black people. Mark Twain did not write the word to degrade black people or to be racist, he wrote it to be historically accurate of the times. " To say that Twain is racist because of his desire for historical accuracy is absurd."


" through all of Twain's writings, not just the thirty-plus volumes of

novels, stories, essays, and letters, but also his private correspondence, his

posthumous autobiography and his intimate journals, and you'll be hard put

to find a derogatory remark about the black race, and this at a time when

crude racial stereotypes were the basic coin of popular fiction, stage

comedy, and popular songs." If Mark Twain wrote the "politically correct" style of writing the critics talk about it would take away the deep undertone the novel contains and it would lose it's classic quality.


Throughout history, and even today, people's racist society upbringing blinded them from forming their own opinion.

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"Does Huck Finn Represent Racism?." 13 Mar 2018

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Mark Twain also knew how much society had on people's opinions; therefore, he gave Huck a choice to form a opinion on his own. Huck could either turn Jim in because of society's influence on him or he would not turn in Jim because of their friendship.


" When Huck first meets Jim on the island he makes a monumental decision,

not to turn Jim in. He is confronted by two opposing forces, the force of

society and the force of friendship. Many times throughout the novel Huck

comes very close to rationalizing Jim's slavery. However, he is never able

to see a reason why this man who has become one of his only friends,

should be a slave. Through this internal struggle, Twain expresses his

opinions of the absurdity of slavery and the importance of following

one's personal conscience before the laws of society. By the end of the

novel, Huck and the reader have come to understand that Jim is not

Someone's property and an inferior man, but an equal."


All the satire and symbolism Mark Twain wrote in his great novel led me to believe that Huckleberry Finn does not portray racism. Instead Huckleberry Finn portrays historical accuracy, satire about racists and how much society can influence someone's opinions. " Mark Twain a "racist"! Isn't it about time we put this ridiculous notion to rest?"


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