By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
I doubt they use the “N-word” in heaven. If Mark Twain got his ticket punched for the big dance, he’s probably too busy singing hosannas to be concerned with earthly business.
Then again, considering recent events, Twain could’ve shed his mortal coil and gone straight to the down elevator. NewSouth Books’ plan to remove the “N-word” from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” could be part of Twain’s eternal torment.
Apparently, Twain’s timeless book isn’t as timeless as it once was. In order to make it acceptable for today’s parents and school administrators, the 219 uses of the “N-word” will be replaced with “slave.”
Certainly, the “N-word” isn’t fit for polite company, and NewSouth is free to do whatever it wants because the book is in the public domain.
Times change, I suppose, but I’d prefer schools to teach other books, rather than see Twain’s work altered to reflect today’s sensibilities.
Why not take out references to Huck’s smoking habit? That’s of the devil.
For some of our northern friends, “Mississippi” conjures up nasty images. Let’s spare their feelings and move Huck and Jim’s escape to the Allegheny River, which couldn’t possibly offend.
It should be noted that running away from home is bad. Maybe NewSouth could insert a parenthetical phrase advising young readers to get permission from their parents before hitting the road.
Huck also pretends to be dead, causing false grief for his loved ones. That part could be removed from the approved version.
What kind of name is Huckleberry Finn, anyway? They should use Hunter Davis or Andrampé Smith or Napoleon Dynamite, something that says, “Hey, kids, I’m one of you, especially since I don’t smoke or run away from home or pretend to be dead.”
Seriously, I usually hear the “N-word” in the spring and fall, when the windows are down at a stoplight and somebody’s speakers are thumping.
My kids are occasionally in the car at such times. It’s hard to know exactly what they pick up, but I’m willing to bet that by the time they’re old enough to be assigned “Huckleberry Finn,” they’ll know the “N-word,” as well as its taboo status.
In high school, yours truly earned a 96 on the test, even though I hadn’t finished the book. (My one mistake: Failing to connect Tom Sawyer with “yellow dog conscience.”)
After the test, I asked my teacher if I could take Huck and Jim home for the weekend. She was pleasantly surprised by the request.
I loved that book, and look back on the decision to read it for pleasure as a standout moment in my life.
Maybe I’m selfish for wanting others to have the same experience I had. Maybe removing the “N-word” won’t limit the book’s power.
Still, if today’s readers can’t handle Mark Twain’s version of “Huckleberry Finn,” maybe they shouldn’t read it.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal entertainment writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.