I must warn you… I’m going to use the “N-word” today.
Does that offend you? Well, to be fair, I’m going to use several “N-words” in this piece.
Here comes the first N-word… Are you ready?
That is my humble opinion of the story.
It seems that Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books in Alabama want to publish the books “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in a slightly edited form. He wants to make the following changes:
Anytime the term “Nigger” is used, he wants to replace it with “slave.”
Any references to ol’ “Injun Joe” will be changed to “Indian Joe” instead.
“Half-breed” will become “Half-Blood” as a replacement.
To that, I add my next N-word.
I have to wonder what the motive is? Reasonably, it is to sell books. They believe that if they give these classics a politically correct scrubbing, people will be inclined to buy them.
Keep in mind that Mark Twain himself admitted that “a ‘classic’ is a book which people praise and don’t read.”
Well, I suppose, if that is what he believes will get more people to purchase his copy, and as long as he has proper copyright permission to do it, then God bless him – oh, wait, I think I’m not supposed to mention God anymore. That might offend someone too. But maybe he is right, and maybe there is a demand for such a reinterpretation of the work.
What really bugs me is the fact that we have to talk about sanitizing the books in the first place. Are we that weak as a society that the word “Nigger” is so offensive that we just can’t handle it?
(I’d call and ask Dr. Laura’s opinion, but strangely enough I can’t seem to find her show on the radio anymore)
If that is the case, then shame on us. Shame on a people that are so weak that they cannot face up to historical realities.
I feel bad for the reader that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, picks up this edition of either book and participates in a cheapened, lesser experience. That reader will have stolen from them the opportunity of enjoying the original.
That is too bad. I’d like my children grow up without prejudices, and a healthy part of teaching that is to present them with the truth, as it really happened. Not edited or sanitized or hidden, pretending it didn’t exist. It would be appropriate to add an introduction explaining the historical context. Then present the original unfiltered version. Afterward, follow up with an open discussion what is different today and why.
What stops the editors from further cleaning up the text, by changing Injun Joe into “Native American Joseph”? And what should we make of Huck Finn’s horrific grammar? If we are making corrections for our children, shouldn’t we correct the language usage mistakes that proliferate the tome? After all, we if don’t want them exposed to anything wrong, lets sanitize it all the way!
As they read the new version of the story which would then be not nearly as much fun as the original?