Monday, January 24, 2011

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

It's been some weeks, friends and loyal readers, since I last posted. We've been busy with one surgery on my knee and now, Nicole, my wife is preparing for one related to her dialysis on Thursday coming up in Spokane. There is another related to her back come June or July, too. Keep her in y 'all's prayers, please!

Recently we all read about the lady who wants to remove the word “nigger” from Mark Twain (Samuel Clemmens') classic childrens adventures. Now, one thing I have not heard is a lot of outcry over this. I understand the sentiment. No one I hang out with is racist or wants to be associated with them. But, c'mon folks, this is historical fiction that was written in the parlance of the day. While we find that term socially offensive today, in the time that Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer are set in, it was just another term for a Black person. It may have been perjorative and predjucial, depending on the tone of voice, but it may not have been. In those days, the term was used differently than it is today.

Would I encourage my kids to talk like that? Not at all. But neither would I try to change history and whitewash the past in order to appease tender sensibilities. The books Mark Twain/Sam Clemmens wrote are worth reading no matter who is reading them. They tell a story that is good in its own right, but they also tell a story that tells us much of where we have come from as a country, a culture, and as human beings. We get a glimpse into the minds of the great 19th Century writers and their millieu.

If you find the word, “nigger,” offensive, then engage your children about the word and what it means to them and you and how that might be different from another time and place. This is one of the great authors in American Literature and should be required reading in every public, private and home school in America! While it is fiction, it can be a spring board into many areas of the social studies and history, including 19th Century economics, the differences between North and South and many, many other aspects of our country's history.

You can get your own unchanged, original versions of Mark Twain's masterpieces right here: and in the search bar at the top, type in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” While you're there, you can look up the title, “Travels” and get an early description of the lands of the South and see what Huck Finn's and Tom Sawyer's world looked like in their day!

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