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Focus on the story of Huck Finn, not the words that make it up

Courtesy of MCT

Mark Twain’s stories’ll read ya so good there ain’t a word need changin’.

But apparently, not everyone feels this way. Publishing company NewSouth, along with Alan Gribben, a professor at Auburn University,have decided to tweak Twain’s 1885 novel, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

In the new version, all 219 N-words will be replaced with “slave.”

The change, as you probably have guessed, is being made so as to not offend or upset any young people who read it, particularly those reading it for a high school class.

“It enables us to set this inflammatory racial epithet aside and begin to address the greatness of Twain’s works,” Gribben said in an interview with CBS News.

Gribben seems to be misguided. He wants to have it both ways when, in reality, his visions are incompatible. Part of what makes Twain’s writing so enjoyable is its effectiveness at painting the scene of the times. Changing any part of that does a great disservice to Twain, the students and the past.

Educators always belabor the importance of discussion. Before anything can truly be understood, they say, it must first be discussed. Well, it seems to me like that one word could generate a valuable and necessary discussion. So why then is it being censored?

Reading Twain — exactly as he wrote it — can teach us some very important lessons. Seeing the comfort with which he used the N-word provides us a sense of how society has changed over the years — and for the better.

Is it unreasonable to expect high school students to ever act like mature adults? If they are not mature about seeing the word, then they should be held accountable and punished accordingly. If they are offended or hurt by it, then they should be handed a tissue and told to toughen up.

Society’s attempts to coddle and protect young people from every little thing that might make them uncomfortable only retards their growth and development through life.

But even the notion that teens cannot stomach such language is laughable. Much of the music that that age group listens to neatly packs 219 N-words into three minutes. Not to mention the F-word, B-word, C-word and P-word.

Yet, kids need to be protected from Twain?

I find it puzzling that this has just now become such a major issue. Huckleberry Finn has generated controversy in the past, but now it apparently has gotten so bad as to require censorship. Has no one ever before been offended by the N-word? Or has our society become so frightened by racial tension that it refuses to acknowledge its existence, even in a novel written 125 years ago?

What is being done to Twain’s masterpiece is sad and shameful. I would have loved it if some of the books I was forced to read in high school were changed to make them more exciting. But Twain’s stories need no revamping. They capture one’s imagination and provide a crystal clear portrayal of past American culture.

They should be read and enjoyed, entirely unaltered.  

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