Elements of Demoralization Towards African Americans in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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In Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a sense of underlining demoralization towards African American slaves has caused criticism over the years. Huckleberry Finn set in a time where slavery in America was normal, has sprout controversial discussions since its date of publication. Many critics have judged and debunked the book for its racial discrimination caused by characters in the book. Debatable arguments have been made arguing whether this book is moral, immoral, or amoral. This book being regarded as an “American classic,” has been banned throughout time in certain areas because of this dispute. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is immoral in its portrayal of race in the way it treats African American characters.

Twain for many years since the day of publication for this book has deemed immorality, for its sensible usage of the word “n*gger”. This word that has great power behind it and as well discriminable categorizations towards all African Americas. “N*gger” was purposely used by white slave owners to diminished and discriminate against “blacks”. Perhaps, in the time of this book being written Twain didn’t see the word as offensive because of its normality. But throughout the years it has been set apart from the norm for all people and really has been seen as a word of insult as it should be. An example of usage from the book is when Huck said, “Miss Watson’s big n*gger, named Jim, was setting in the kitchen door;” (Twain 13) In this quote, it is clear how the word is used in the book, to categorize a “black”. Furthermore, it supports the deemed immorality of the book, even though this word could’ve been normal to used back then. It still doesn’t make it correct nor ethically right now. People shouldn’t be judge for being insulted or not wanting to read this “American classic” since this is not a word that should be taken lighthearted. Many could have the opinion that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is racist for it and is intended for white American cultural society’s entertainment.

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It is no doubt that the The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reflects a low moral tone and an anti southernism. The mere way that the dialogue between character is brought upon the reader can seem immoral. Many critics have analyze and judge this book for its bad grammar and it’s reductive langauge, but perhaps there is something else behind just simply “bad grammar”. As Jim said, “Well, I ‘uz gwyne to spen’ it, but i had a dream, en de dream tole me to give it to a n*gger name” (Twain 49). This quote is one of the many quotes of dialogue from the book that shows how Jim’s (a slave) speech is depicted to the reader. Filled with bad grammar, an “accent”, and a stereotypical reform of words. An interpretation of this arises, for all one knows this could’ve been a subliminal racial slur against southern slaves and their way of speaking. It is clear that this way of speaking is not of an educated person, nor of a white since Huck’s speech is not represented this way. Mark Twain purposely uses a reductive language for Jim who is slave. Which brings forth a racial epithetic towards the way African Americans are perceived in the story.

In relating the novel to Twain’s career as a humorist and statements about humor, Kaplan makes a good point of Twain’s humorist character. Kaplan says, “From the day that he chose his vocation to the day he died, he felt compelled to defend humor, to free the noun humorist from the adjective mere and the synonym clown. To do this he natured into ever darker, ever more complex and punishing modes,” (Kaplan 374). I agree with Kaplan because Twain as a humorist abstain the norm and went into a darker area for comedy. His idea of humor might’ve not been understood by many in his time. But this humor came as a racists before and so it does today. Comedians have always been under fire for the same reason for many years for their racial jokes being used as comedy, therefore deeming them morally correct. But for Twain’s book this might seem as a stretch since his purpose was not to bring laughter to the reader but a story.

Kaplan describes the career of Huckleberry Finn as their being a bitter irony to it. He says that the novel has come under attack in our time for its alleged “racism.” He describes some events where people found the book offensive and they banned it from the school or a reading requirement. For example Kaplan said “In 1982 an administrator at the Mark Twain intermediate School in Fairfax Country, Virginia, called it ‘the most grotesque example of racism I’ve ever seen in my life’” (Kaplan 378). This alleged racism is also the reason why this book is so popular. For most if they didn’t hear about this being “racially offensive” they perhaps would’ve never read it.

Although most of this book might come out as completely racist there is merit to thinking this book is actually morally correct. In chapter 16, when Huck lies to the men on the river into thinking he is traveling alone with his father who has smallpox. He reflects on his actions, “s’pose you’d a done right and give Jim up, would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I’d feel bad—I’d feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what’s the use you learning to do right when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck.” (Twain 94) This quote argues that Huck all along has had a moral bringing towards the way he sees Jim. Perhaps, in a way Huck and Twain aren’t full racist who see blacks as less because of Huck’s realization in this scene. As a whole, Huck’s morals develop as he spends time with Jim. In the beginning, Huck had internal struggles whether or not he was doing the right thing by running with Jim. But we see that even now, Huck himself is shocked of thinking in this new moral way. Towards the end of the book we see Huck has changed opinion on who Jim is and what his freedom means for him. Huck is even happy to hear that Jim has been a free man for awhile now and that he can go live free with his family. For many readers maybe this is the turning point that saves the morality of the book. And instead of judging this book as immoral, they see beyond the racial slurs and coarse manner to a light of morality.

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has been notorious throughout the years for it’s immorality, lack of grammar, and it’s coarse manner. An American classic who has been banned from many schools and libraries, as well being criticized for being simply trash. It’s bigotry opinion on race, who diminishes an ethnic group with reductive language and slavery. Will always have a controversial discussion about it’s reference about race among critics and readers.

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