A new version of the 1884 Mark Twain classic, 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn', will be published by NewSouth Books next month. The publishers intend to do away with the ‘n’ word in the book which according to them has been used 219 times, reports Publishers Weekly. The word ‘slave’ will be substituted in the offending word's place throughout the book.
As expected, there is a groundswell of protestations and criticism from the literary public. There are allegations of whitewashing and playing with historical and literary facts. Alan Gribben, a scholar and English department head at Auburn University, defending the new edition said, This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind, Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century. “Twain himself defined a classic as a book which people praise and don’t read,” he added.
This is his effort to make more people read the book who were overlooking the classic because of its reference to colour and race. Whatever the defense for the censorship, the blogosphere is very vociferous of its condemnation of the move. Here are a few examples of the public outcry:
•Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post: This Is Unprecedented! It's not about avoiding an awkward classroom moment, or they would have removed the word ejaculate from Victorian novels, where everybody is always ejaculating about everything. It would be like renaming 1984 2084, because the current title does not reflect how pleasant life was under the Reagan administration. This is like changing War and Peace to Peace, because because war is unpleasant to remember, or removing World War I from All Quiet on the Western Front.
•Sigh: The book is a historically accurate account of the attitudes and language used in the time it was written. In context, there is nothing wrong with the words Nigger and Injun being used in the book. Yes, the terms are racist, but it was a racist time. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
•BillBrasky: Act like you enjoy whitewashing... People will notice and ask if they can try. Tell then they can but they must first give you an apple. Then you can lounge about, eating the apple, while the sucker finishes whitewashing the fence for you. It works.
•Haiku_attack: If anything, removing these terms seems racist. It's whitewashing history. Everything was fine! No one did anything bad!. I remember reading it as a child, and it was the first time any kind of media actually scared me. I remember seeing stuff in that book which I could see reflected in my own world, even if they were only the faintest glimmer of similarity. As a small child, nothing terrified me more.
•Rob Anderson, Boston .com : They Made the Right Choice. The n word today is not the same thing as it was 100 years ago. And while we shouldn't get in the habit of editing books as the meaning of words change over time (that's what footnotes are for, after all!), sometimes it's okay--especially when the meaning of a word, like the n word, has changed so significantly. Yes, the n word was impolite and rude when Twain included it in the book--219 times, to be exact --but it didn't carry the same historical, cultural, or political baggage that it does now. If any word deserves to be nixed, the n word would be it.