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Huck Finn: The Twisting Tides of Portrayal - Racism

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In recent years, there has been increasing discussion of the seemingly racist ideas expressed by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In some cases, the novel has been banned by public school systems and even censored by public libraries. Along with the excessive use of the word, "nigger," the basis for this blatant censorship has been the portrayal of one of the main characters in Huck Finn, Jim, a black slave who runs away from his owner, Miss Watson. At several points in the novel, Jim's character is described to the reader, and some people have looked upon the presented characterization as racist. However, before one begins to censor a novel it important to distinguish the ideas of the author from the ideas of his characters. It is also important to read carefully to sufficiently capture the underlying themes of a novel. If one were to do this in relation to Huck Finn, one would, without a doubt, realize that it is not racist and is, in fact, anti-slavery.

On an superficial level The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might appear to be racist. The first time we meet Jim he is given a very negative description. The reader is told that Jim is illiterate, childlike, not very bright, and extremely superstitious. However, it is important not to lose sight of who is giving this description and who it is being given to. Although Huck is not a racist child, he has been raised by extremely racist individuals who have, even if only subconsciously, planted some feelings of superiority into the roots of his mind. It is also important to remember that this description, although quite saddening, is probably accurate. Jim and the millions of other slaves in the South were not given or allowed any formal education, were never allowed any independent thought and were constantly maltreated and abused. Twain is merely portraying a very realistic slave in the South during that time period. To say that Twain is racist because of his desire for historical accuracy is absurd. He simple strives to show a true representation of society's view of slaves.

Despite the few incidences of which Jim's description might be misconstrued as racist, there are many points in the novel where through Huck, Twain voices his extreme opposition to the slave trade and racism. In chapter six, Huck's father fervently objects to the governments granting of voting rights to an educated black professor. Twain wants the reader to see the absurdity in this statement. Huck's father believes that he is superior to this black professor simply

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