An example of the censorship in classic American literature that makes popular television even more questionable.

By Natalie Allen | Staff Writer

The historical novel “Huckleberry Finn,” written by Mark Twain has been highly regarded for decades for its accurate depiction of racism that occurred within the 18th century.

“When Mark Twain authored the book, it was a pivotal moment in U.S. history between Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. When studying U.S. history, one of the things we look at is race relations at that time. So, his book is actually a primary source for evidence- text evidence- of race relations at that time,” teacher Addie Garcia-Dubravic said.

There has been a notion to edit the book by replacing the “n-word” and “ingin” with “slave” to decrease the novel’s offensiveness.

“[Mark Twain] is a product of his time, and I do not believe he meant any disrespect when he used the n-word in his book,” Garcia-Dubravic said. “He was simply writing it as a man from his time and that word was commonly used throughout his time.”

On the other hand, Jersey Shore has started its second season of young adults conducting havoc on the MTV network, and reels in viewers despite its profanity.

“I watch Jersey Shore every Thursday night, and I record it, so I pretty much love it,” junior Courtney Warden said. “I think that the actors use bad language because that is just how they speak. That is what they are used to.”

Offensive language has become a major facet of culture.

“I don’t think the language in those shows [is] technically disrespectful either, because for those types of people, it has become so commonplace. I think, sadly, it shows for those people a lack of education,” Garcia-Dubravic said. “I don’t even know if they know any other words to use instead of the ones they have chosen.”

Jersey Shore and Mark Twain’s language choice is accepted because it is part of a certain culture. Yet, only one has become a victim of censorship.

“It’s not like Mark Twain meant anything by saying that word, and it’s not in the media,” Warden said. “It’s not something that [we] constantly have to see. Then, when you turn on the television, MTV is full of sex and drugs and bad language. I don’t get why that is acceptable when Huckleberry Finn is being censored.”

Mark Twain has been deceased for over a hundred years, and whether the edit would be ethical or not is still a concern.

“He’s not alive to defend it. If you censored someone’s book who was alive now, it would be a big legal issue. I’m sure he wouldn’t want it censored,” Warden said.

The significance of the novel seems to remain. It wasn’t intended to give an offensive effect, ¬†but to make people see what was the issue during that time.

“We’ve gotten to a place in society where political correctness is trying not to offend. I think Mark Twain would be offended that his book was rewritten. It is a tedious line to walk. How far do we go to be politically correct as to not offend? But at the same time the idea of censoring to be politically correct would offend. I always try to remind [my students] that the are valuable lessons learned from those past mistakes. I feel that if we constantly edit out those mistakes, there is nothing left to learn,” Garcia-Dubravic said.

If you evaluate the purpose behind the production of Jersey Shore, it is certainly not intended to educate our youth.

“Many of the shows are continually showing people who misbehave or act a fool. Those shows used be on during the nine o’clock hour because supposedly the kids were supposed to be in bed by nine. Now those shows, in 2011, come on at seven o’clock or eight o’clock. So, I think overall as society continues to be bombarded by these images, they aren’t as shocked anymore. It doesn’t have the shock value for many of the generation of your age. So we have to keep upping the ante of what shocks us,” Garcia-Dubravic said.

The filtering of television has been a battle that the government has fought before; until they settled for a labeling system.

“Throughout the 1990’s there was a huge push to censor things that were going on television, but, with the constitution protecting first amendment rights, the government’s pushes lost their battle. Instead we replaced it with a rating system. I think that was their happy avenue. Whether or not they decided to apply that to literature, I think that instead of totally wiping it clean we can have the same rating system go on the book. It gives the person a choice,” Garcia Dubravic said.

There are some healthy alternatives to censoring Huckleberry Finn.

“I would like them not to censor it but, at the same time- if they are going to censor it, make it a choice. Let my child read for how it was written, for its historical value, and let other people’s children have the choice to read the edited, 21st-century version.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About The Author

I am a senior at Johnson High School and I am one of the Arts & Entertainment editors for our online publication staff. SAIL: AWOLNATION.

3 Responses

  1. Keagan Wickerham

    It is important to note that there is a major difference between the creative works behind “Jersey Shore” and Twain’s works such as “Huck Finn.”This is in their purpose.

    Twain is the father of Social Satire. His novels and short stories are in every sense a satire of his time. “Huck Finn” is one of his best practices of this in his portrayal of American culture. It is not only that he is “a product of his time,” but he is also analyzing his time through a literary sense, while still being able to write fantastic literature masterpieces.

    Jersey Shore offers none of that. Jersey shore is a reality show, (although it is a tad ironic that it is called a “reality show”) and provides little to nothing in the sense of cultural and educational value.

    So the censorship debate ion context of these things really shoiws some irrelevancies. Twain’s work is an educational satirical piece, being “politically correct” should matter not when satirically analyzing society. In fact it would be detrimental to censor Twain’s work on that grounds or any grounds. However, Jersey Shore offers none of that, so if there is something racey or inappropriate, no harm is being done by taking it away. Really, the most satisfying option to society would probably be the complete censorship of the show in general.

    That being said, great article. It was a great read and a fresh modern insight into a modern day analysis of censorship.

    Reply
  2. danielle carwley

    it’s hard for me with the age that i am and the time that im living to say i do agree with this story! it isnt exceptable for shows such as jersey shore and whatever else plays on mtv to display the image they have. the actors use such offensive language and i know i m ay sound like a hipotic because i watch the show every thursday night and im in love with it but its just not right. nothing is going to change just like with mark twin, we don’t know any better we think its okay to cuss like that because we are as a young society “followers” We do what we see on tv, we follow whats hot and whats not and most of all we don’t want to feel alienated from the current trends that we live in today. i dont think mark twin should use the n-word like that but he ddint know any better just like the house mates on jersey shore. but people are people and they are going to do what they know!

    Reply
  3. Amy Allen

    Natalie, I love that you are thinking about these issues! I am so proud of you for your maturity and insight. I like Mrs. Garciadubravec’s idea for putting a rating system on books. It seems unnessary, but with people actually discussing censorship of Mark Twain, it seems like a thoughtful alternative. Ultimately, I think life is about choices. If you don’t like the words, then don’t read the book. Absolutely great article!!!!!

    Reply

Leave a Reply to danielle carwley Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.