Friday, August 21, 2009

Huck Finn - The "N" word

Mark Twain used the N word in quite breathtaking quantities in Huck Finn. At almost the beginning of the book, when Jim is telling others about his run-in with the witch, Twain uses the N word about ten times in one paragraph. It's enough to make a modern reader cringe!

That word is a Hot Button issue. We've seen the Superintendent of the Clark County School District get in trouble for using it in a well-intentioned manner, but rappers use the word all the time.

PBS ran a series called Culture Shock, and one segment was titled "Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huck Finn". The program discussed all the ways that Huck Finn was offensive, and all the people who loved and revered the work. The current issues were with the N word and with the stereotyping of Jim.

In the teacher's section about dealing with the controversial aspects of the book, they suggested that addressing the issue head on might help. Here are two different treatmens of the N word by students:

The N Word - It just slips out

Incident by Countee Cullen

Can a word - it's really just a word - cause that much difficulty? Do you have "hot button" words? Words you won't allow in your house? What makes them "hot button" for you?

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