Huck. Finn published without the "N" word
Posted 05 January 2011 - 01:58 PM
: For pity's sake, if you don't know what a word means, don't use it. Replacing one word with another is not "annotation."
Quite so. And, as it happens, "annotated" editions of Huckleberry Finn do exist.
old wave wrote:
: Replacing the world "nigger" with "slave" isn't an appropriate substitution. Being a "slave" is changeable and impermanent. A slave can be freed, and then he is no longer a slave. Being a nigger is an immutable part of one's being and soul. It can't be transcended or changed. Further, anyone can be a slave, but only a black person can be a nigger. It really doesn't mean even close to the same thing, and its sort of surprising that Twain scholars would think it would.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:05 PM
I suppose next there'll be a version of All in the Family where epithets like "Meathead" are replaced with "person with a learning difference," or a film about the Civil War where the Confederate flag is replaced with "Have a nice day."
Edited by mrmando, 05 January 2011 - 02:19 PM.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:25 PM
I'm also surprised that no one seems to think the word's usage has changed since original publication. That alone merits consideration. If Twain's intent was to make his readers (then) uncomfortable, then I'm surprised at how such a popular word back then could have had that effect.
I don't see this as a political correctness issue ("meathead" replacement). Slave isn't a very nice word, either.
Edited by Pax, 05 January 2011 - 02:27 PM.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:40 PM
Not quite. It is not as if this is the government making access to to the original version illegal. Noone is removing the original version. The original is not banned, anyone can buy the original version in any bookstore. It can be published as it stood by any publisher. This is not true censorship.
I don't agree with this particular edition, but it is not replacing and erasing the original. The original is not being censored wholesale and hidden away.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 02:41 PM
Mark Twain said:
12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
Edited by mrmando, 06 January 2011 - 07:04 AM.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 03:01 PM
- Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field, Fisher
Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense.
- Notebook, 1888
Creed and opinion change with time, and their symbols perish; but Literature and its temples are sacred to all creeds and inviolate.
- Letter to the Millicent [Rogers] Library, 22 February 1894
So: Is n***** a "perfectly good English word"?
- Notebook, 1896
Words realize nothing, verify nothing to you, unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words try to describe.
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
So maybe it is indecent now but a "perfectly good" word then? Is this a translation issue--surely the n* word doesn't existing quite the same in some of the other languages into which the work has been translated.
Bonus question: Should the following quotes be edited--Twain seems to be editing himself..."the name they go by now"? If the use of the n* word has *not* changed then Twain is a damned bigot. If the use has changed, then certainly he doesn't mean what we might read below?
- "Mark Twain on the Colored Man", Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, July 1865
Language changes. How many of us are comfortable using the (perfectly good and unrelated to N*) word niggardly in daily conversation?
Edited by Pax, 05 January 2011 - 03:04 PM.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 03:32 PM
Regarding Mark Twain's use of the n-word in his own voice, even the Virginia City excerpt contains a significant note of irony and disapproval toward the term. In Tom Sawyer he uses the then-more-genteel term Negro when speaking in the authorial voice, as he continued to do throughout the rest of his life.
To sum up: You can never hope to defeat racism if you can't even bring yourself to look at it squarely. General Grant's troops might not have much liked the Confederate flag, but they didn't blindfold themselves before going into battle.
Edited by mrmando, 05 January 2011 - 06:34 PM.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 03:48 PM
- "Jane Lampton Clemens"
The idea of making negroes citizens of the United States was startling and disagreeable to me, but I have become reconciled to it; and being reconciled to it, and the ice being broken and the principle established, I am ready now for all comers. The idea of seeing a Chinaman a citizen of the United States would have been almost appalling to me a few years ago, but I suppose I can live through it now.
- "The Treaty with China," New York Tribune, August 4, 1868, p. 1-2
Here, "reconciled" and "live through it" aren't exactly stirring. One can infer much from a writer so aware of word choice using precisely those terms.
But times change.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 04:37 PM
Regarded as a man of his time, in his own cultural and historical context, Mark Twain was a progressive of the first order. Many of his ideas would still be considered radical today. You might want to read up on the Chinese Exclusion Act, which went into effect fourteen years after Twain made his "Chinaman" remark, and remained thus until 1943.
Edited by mrmando, 05 January 2011 - 04:40 PM.
Posted 05 January 2011 - 10:52 PM
(And do recognize him overall being quite progressive, startlingly so at times.)
Posted 05 January 2011 - 11:26 PM
: How can you say that the intent of the use of the word to make us uncomfortable?
I'm not sure that it was, myself. Not on its own, at any rate; it presumably has to be seen in context, i.e. the depiction of inter-racial relationships in a particular time and place.
: I'm also surprised that no one seems to think the word's usage has changed since original publication.
Well of course it has changed. So what?
Just a couple days ago, I was watching a documentary about Harry Jerome, a Canadian athlete of African descent who was big in the '60s and '70s, and in there, there was some archival footage of reporters asking him about the "Negro" community, etc. As one who was born in 1970 myself, I can dimly recall how common the word "Negro" was in popular parlance at the time -- but these days hardly anyone uses it.
But again I ask, so what? Is the fact that word-usage changes over time -- sometimes quite rapidly -- any reason to censor the use of the word "Negro" in older texts and recordings? I would think not. If anything, we NEED the jolt of the unfamiliar when dealing with the past, to remind ourselves that everything we take for granted nowadays was not always so.
: Slave isn't a very nice word, either.
Yeah, as I noted above, some politically-correct types want to censor THAT word, too. This PC version of Huckleberry Finn is ALREADY behind the curve.
: How many of us are comfortable using the (perfectly good and unrelated to N*) word niggardly in daily conversation?
Actually, quite a few people are okay with that word -- or would be, if it weren't for the ignoramuses out there raising a hue and cry over the alleged "racism" of that word. (Next up on the chopping block: "denigrate". You think I'm joking, but then, you probably haven't seen The Great Debaters.)
: Here, "reconciled" and "live through it" aren't exactly stirring. One can infer much from a writer so aware of word choice using precisely those terms.
Perhaps. One must also take into account a writer's sense of humour, his intended audience, etc., etc.
Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:03 PM
Edited by Scott Derrickson, 06 January 2011 - 03:15 PM.
Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:11 PM
Oh boy. The above italicized word needs to be censored also. I recommend replacing it with "very." Unless this was an actual procession that separated sexual proclivities into different sections, and this is simply a reflection of a sad age in which all homosexuals had to walk at the end of parades rather than the middle or the front.
Edited by M. Leary, 06 January 2011 - 03:20 PM.
Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:21 PM
Posted 06 January 2011 - 03:29 PM
On the other hand, it's not just a word either ... it's an absolutely unique word in the way it connotes the oppression of a particular race. No equivalent term applies to white people.
Perhaps the saddest statement I've heard in defense of the new edition is that teachers aren't prepared, for the benefit of their students, to put Huckleberry Finn in its proper historical context with the n-word in place. If they're not prepared to put a book in its proper historical context, what are they prepared to do?
Edited by mrmando, 06 January 2011 - 04:15 PM.
Posted 06 January 2011 - 04:09 PM
Posted 06 January 2011 - 04:18 PM
Posted 06 January 2011 - 06:19 PM
And I well remember my fourth-grade teacher reading something to us about Alfred Hitchcock, and then pausing to interrupt two tittering, joke-swapping boys with the words, "Quiet, Danny! This has nothing to do with penises!"
Posted 06 January 2011 - 06:33 PM
P.S. In case anybody's sincerely curious about a certain term, there's always the dictionary.
Edited by mrmando, 07 January 2011 - 12:48 AM.
Posted 10 January 2011 - 02:44 AM
Trouble is, this is a misattribution. The quotation is unsourced, although Robert A. Heinlein apparently wrote something similar to it.
It turns out that Twain did say the following:
"But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn't anger me." (Letter to Mrs. F. G. Whitmore, 7 February 1907)
So perhaps there was, after all, a limited sense in which Twain didn't "give a flip" about a wholesale exclusion of a book. It would nonetheless be foolish to try to extrapolate from this quotation a similar indifference toward word-substitution. In fact, the interesting question becomes whether Twain would have preferred an outright ban to a bowdlerization. Available evidence, though thin, suggests that the answer is yes.
A point of curiosity: in the new edition, will Chapter 21 contain a reference to "slave-head" tobacco?
Edited by mrmando, 11 January 2011 - 04:58 PM.