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The Controversy Of Huckleberry Finn Essay

1912 words - 8 pages

  Over the 129 years for which the book has been in print, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been regarded with much controversy, for many different reasons. As it has progressed, the subject of this controversy has been almost constantly changing. This essay will explore some of the claims and explanations of the controversy, as well as a discussion on whether the book is even that controversial. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion about this novel, The main complaints seem to revolve around three core topics: Twain’s portrayal of Jim and other blacks, The extensive use of the racial slurs and racism, and the final chapters of the book itself.
  Charles Nilon, In his essay “The Ending of Huckleberry Finn, ‘Freeing the Free Negro’” (1992) argues that the final chapters of Huckleberry Finn “show figuratively, and pass judgment on, this process of ‘freeing the free negro’ that Twain became increasingly aware of after 1880” (Nilon 62). Nilon portrays the treatment of Jim between Tom and Huck as a matter of class. For Tom, who Nilon argues represents the higher class of the south, thinks that “black people were ‘niggers.’ They were inferior, and freedom for them was necessarily different from what freedom was for white people.” (Nilon 66). Huck, on the other hand, who is argued to represent the lower, more morally-conscious class of southerner, becomes increasingly more ethical in his decisions, (For example, when Huck decides they must free Jim from capture, as opposed to leaving him). Nilon brings up another example of contrast between the two boys, and therefore the two classes, when Huck and Tom enter Jim’s holding area, and are confronted by another slave who is keeping watch. Tom does not want the guard to view them as “equals” and bullies the slave into confusion and submission. Huck, once again on the other side of the spectrum, makes an ethically right decision not to alert Miss Watson of Jim’s whereabouts. Nilon’s displays some solid arguments that provide a kind of insight into the environment surrounding Mark Twain at the time of his writing the third and final section of Huckleberry Finn, and how it may have influenced his novel. In addition, Nilon attempts to persuade against the controversy around the book. Nilon argues for the book because of Twain’s recognition of conflict, but Julius Lester argues that Twain may take it too far.
  Julius Lester’s essay “Morality and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1995) argues against the use of Huckleberry Finn in schools, but not for the banning of the book itself. Lester starts with an anecdote in order to explain that the American vision instilled by Huck Finn is not the truth for all members of the American society. Lester claims that Twain’s comparison of Huck being held captive by his father and the slavery of a black man to be an almost irreconcilable offense, as “Twain applies a veneer to slavery which obscures the fact that by definition, slavery was a...

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