Originally published in 1884, Huck Finn has grown to be acknowledged as classical American literature. Scores of writers and critics alike, sight it as being the single best piece of American writing. In a controversial new bid to return Huck Finn to the classroom, one professor is planning to revise and edit the racial slurs from the book.
Alan Gribben, a Mark Twain scholar and head of the English department at Auburn University at Montgomery, has teamed with NewSouth Books to issue a revised version of the Mark Twain classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This controversial move is being made ironically to remove some of the controversy from the book.
The controversy with the book stems from the racial slurs used throughout the novel. The word “nigger” is used a whooping 219 times, including the table of contents. This word will be replaced with the word “slave” in the new revised text. The word “injun” will also be changed.
The hope for this new revised text is that children and general readers will be more comfortable reading it and learning from it, than the original text which is felt to alienate both groups. In today’s new politically correct world, many general readers are put-off by the language. Many children are banned altogether from reading it.
A single year after the original release in 1884, people started to consider banning the book. Over the last several “decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word.” (Publisher’s Weekly, Schultz)
Gribben was quoted saying, “After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” He went on to say, “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs.” (Publisher’s Weekly, Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ Word, by Marc Schultz)
In the same article, NewSouth Books cofounder and publisher Suzanne La Rosa said, “What he (Gribben) suggested was that there was a market for a book in which the n-word was switched out for something less hurtful, less controversial. We recognized that some people would say that this was censorship of a kind, but our feeling is that there are plenty of other books out there-all of them, in fact-that faithfully replicate the text, and that this was simply an option for those who were increasingly uncomfortable, as he put it, insisting students read a text which was so incredibly hurtful.”
Many fans and critics are outraged by the changes that will be made to the book. Censorship is a word that is definitely being used to describe the new version. Within the coarse of Twain’s own life the book was banned. Several libraries banned it in 1885 for crudeness. In 1905, New York’s Brooklyn Library banned the book because Huck “not only itched but scratched”, which was, at that time, considered obsence. (Wikipedia, Huck Finn) Throughout the controversy surrounding the book upon release and subsequent bans, Twain never rewrote it himself to make it less controversial.
This new revised version is going to be sold under the title, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition for $24.95 hardcover. This story is being sold with the story of Tom Sawyer, in one book. It’s scheduled to hit shelves in February.
Cover via Amazon An older version of the book cover.