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.”