How does language contribute to the total effect of Huckleberry Finn?
Huckleberry Finn –
The adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the work of Mark Twain, is considered a continuation of the novel by the same author The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and transports us to the southern world and antebellum (that is, “before the war”) of Tom and his crazy adventures.
But this time, the events are more risky than “crazy”. Huckleberry Finn is a poor boy whose father is a violent drunk. Huck escapes and soon finds another fugitive, but he does not escape only from an evil father, but from an oppressive system based on racial discrimination: slavery.
This encounter raises an ethical dilemma (or what is the same, a “dilemma”) to Huckleberry. He is aware that, according to the law, he should give Jim, the escaped slave. The problem is that you start to see him as a real person, instead of, you know, as someone’s property. (Do not tell me, Huckleberry …)
When Twain first published Huckleberry Finn in 1884 in Canada and the United Kingdom, and later in the United States in 1885, the work was immediately censored, but not for its occasional racist comments or the use of the forbidden word in English that begins with “n” and refers to people of color. Not PO. It was banned because it was considered “vulgar” because of its representation of lower-class offenders, and for things like the time when Huck scratches himself.
Fifty years later, Huckleberry Finn had already become part of the American literary tradition. Both T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway considered it one of the most important works ever written in the United States, and even so, it was still censored, and it was purged and adapted to an era (somewhat) less tolerant of racism.
At Shmoop we love forbidden books, and not just because we are rebels without cause. We like them because the fact that a work is forbidden means that there is someone to whom the subject bothers you, and if someone is upset that you talk about a topic, then we know that the book raises something important. And Diosito … if you will raise important issues Huckleberry Finn!
The list of thorny issues is endless: Is it okay to own other people? (Hint: no), should we abide by the laws if you are wrong? (This is not so simple), are individuals more important than society? (We prefer not to say anything about this other).
Think about it this way: Huckleberry Finn suggests that moral values accepted by society are wrong. Normally, public schools (and most private ones) adhere to these moral values, although, being honest, in most cases they are not without reason: do not cheat, show respect, be punctual, etc. However, it is not hard to see that schools are reluctant to allow their students to read a book that suggests that individual conscience should take precedence over the rules and laws that society follows.
What do I care?
Can a word hurt more deeply than a sword?
The hip-hop songs are full of the forbidden word in English that starts with “n” and refers to people of color. In Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino uses it in almost all the phrases (or without the almost, the truth is that we do not count them), and Huck has no qualms about referring to his supposed friend with that same offensive word.
Hip-hop artists say they claim the word and use it to define a community; Tarantino affirms that he tries to show the racism of slavery in a precise way; and Mark Twain was only trying to represent the dialect of the time, writing one of the first American novels that resorted to the language of real people instead of the literary one.