Colorado

Jan 19, 2011 4:55 PM by Andy Koen

Community slow to embrace "n" word free Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains 219 uses of the "n" word. Next month, the publisher NewSouth Books will release a new edition of the novel that replaces each use of the racial slur with the word "slave."

Colorado College English Professor Barry Sarchett teaches a class specifically on Huck Finn, race and censorship. He says revisions of Twains work are nothing new.

"The Boston Library immediately banned it which tickled Mark Twain to no end," Sarchett said.

That said, he's not sure whether a modernized version of the novel is a good or bad idea.

"It depends on the uses to which this new edition is going to be put," he said.

For example, Sarchett doesn't think that college students should be taught from the revised edition.  On the other hand, "very young children, younger children, junior high, maybe high school I can understand why this might be important especially in mixed race classrooms."

Most schools in the Pikes Peak Region keep copies of Huck Finn in their collections. It's not required reading, and none of the schools we spoke to currently have plans to buy the new book.

The Pikes Peak Library District says they will carry it if people want it.

"Anything that we have demand for we'll purchase," explains Nancy Maday, the supervisor of children's services at the Penrose Library.

She adds that the library will not be getting rid of the old copies.  "We'll still have the classic edition," Maday said.

While the plot of Huck Finn seems to portray the character's struggle to overcome his own racial prejudices, Professor Sarchett cautions teachers from teaching the book to young students.

For one thing, there's Twains writing style to consider. "It's a great book but it's very subtle, very ironic, very ambiguous, very complex," Sarchett said.

There's also Twain's personal prejudices to consider and, as a consequence, the prejudices of his lead character.

"Huck's own attitude and Mark Twain's own attitude they were both, Huck especially, but Mark Twain was raised in the racist South and as anyone at that time would be, those were imprinted on his psyche."

He says there are much better ways teach young children about the horrors of racism than reading Huckleberry Finn.

NewSouth says it will print 7,500 copies of it's version of the book sometime in mid-February.

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