Is rewriting and censoring someone’s creation for textual purity a bad idea? Should controversial books such as the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (“Huck Finn”) and To Kill a Mockingbird (“TKM”) be updated for modern times? These are two questions that have recently created a substantial outcry relative to the classic novels by Mark Twain and Harper Lee.
Without equivocation, Huck Finn and TKM are two of the greatest works in American literature, as objectively evidenced by their widespread readership in our nation’s classrooms and around the globe. These two texts are also extremely polemical in nature because of their inherent racial stereotypes and relatively heavy usage of racial slurs and have been consequently banned in various places. In an effort to overcome the controversial aspect of Huck Finn, NewSouth Books plans to release a version in February that will replace the “n” word with “slave” and replace the slur “injun” when referencing Native Americans.
And, there have been discussions of making similar changes in TKM. Some commentators have voiced strong opinions that this type of censorship should not be implemented, because it is predicated on erasing racism as if it never happened. Other critics and readers believe that the changes to Huck Finn and the proposed modifications to TKM are necessary and will result in more people being able to truly enjoy these narratives. Are both viewpoints valid? Absolutely.
Since the election of President Obama, there are certain individuals who believe that we now live in a post-racial and colorblind America, where racism and bigotry have come to an end and divisive and artificial categorizations (i.e., races) cease to remain. In congruence with this train of thought, some people believe that talking about the days when the “n” word was “acceptable” is no longer needed.