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The N-word in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most contentious books in the American education system. The book has generated a series of heated arguments among students, educational boards and parents across America for over half a century. When Mark Twain decided to use the n-word (Nigger/Nigga), he knew it’s a controversial and an offensive word.  As a result, some people have not only demanded the removal of the n-word, but a ban of the book from the schools’ shelves (Hutchinson, n/d). On the other hand, some have maintained their ground and argued that the presence of the n-word is part of the American history and removing it will be unrealistic. While both sides of the debate may appear justified in their own rights, the n-word in Huckleberry Finn should remain.

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While it’s true to state that Marks’ choice of the n-word in Huckleberry Finn is humiliating to African-American students and can lead to low self-esteem, authors are always keen in the choice of words in their works. There is no author who would jeopardize his or her career by simply using vulgar language. It is reasonable to say that Mark knew what he intended to achieve in his book. Mark Twain’s main motivation for writing the book was not to generate a conversation on racism rather start a debate on morality on humans and the consequences of their thoughts. Mark lived in a society where the n-word was a common name used to refer to African-Americans who were often slaves. For Mark, the only practical way to evoke people’s feelings was to use the n-word. The use of this word in Huckleberry Finn portrays or shows how the United States has evolved as a nation. Therefore, irrespective of its association with raism, the n-word is part of the American history that should not be forgotten.

Without a doubt that the n-word is an inflammatory and a controversial word in modern English Language. Those proposing for the removal of the word can say that the book is highly delicate for any teacher to teach in the United States, especially in a class with African-American. One can thus conclude that the book is unsuitable for any student in America. Anyone proposing the removal of the n-word can say that its repetition in the book (over 219 times) is very tormenting to black students (Hutchinson, n/d). However, it will be hypocritical to remove the n-word and replace it with a “friendly” name. These two terms are synonyms. In fact, when Twain used the word “nigger” he never meant to offend the African Americans. He was a renowned anti-racist. He had established a great working relationship with African-American Educators such as Booker T. Washington. Twain co-chaired the 1906 Silver Jubilee Fundraiser and one should thus say that the n-word is in any way an element of racism (Hutchinson, n/d). Therefore, the n-word should remain.

The decision to use the word nigger is very practical, although the use of satire was huge and still unappreciated by many African-American, it is important for those proposing the removal of the n-word to try and see the book for what it is and not just a book trying to advance racism. Twain did choose to maintain a society similar to that in the real life, but this lead to negative conclusions. At this juncture, one might ask; what is the need to have a book that is the fourth most banned book in schools? Removing the n-word from the text will make the book lose its intended meaning. Editing a book to removee words that people might thing are vulgar or harsh makes a text lose the caustic sting. Removing the n-word will thus fail in bringing out the real time when the book was written.

Every author has the right of expression, removing the n-word in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be termed as a denial of freedom of speech and malice misrepresentation of what the author intended to achieve (Hutchinson, n/d). Nobody can dispute the fact that Twain was an advocate of blacks’ rights and his main point in using the n-word was to present to the world the wickedness and hostility of slavery. In addition, the use of the word nigger appears to be justifiable when said by an African-American. It is, therefore, good to analyze the contradiction. The use of the word nigger is thus a matter of who mentions the word and not what is meant by the word. Many African-American have used the word and continuously justified its use. African-American musicians or artists, authors and filmmakers continue to use the n-word, and there is no much debate. Some of the n-word users and apologists suggest that black aims at making the wordless offensive when they use it constantly so that racists will not have the ability to hurt them, however, this was not Twains’ intention (Hutchinson, n/d). It is thus important that people take the n-word in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for what it is and not any other imagined meaning.

In conclusion, Twain would not have achieved his goal by sugar coating the language he chooses to use in his book. The decision to use the n-word is very essential in Twains' The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it brings out a time and place in the United States that nobody should not try to forget.

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