Racism and Huckleberry Finn: A Look Below The Surface

...Start of the Racism and Huckleberry Finn: A Look Below The Surface ...

“I see it warn’t no use wasting words—you can’t learn a nigger to argue. ” Says Huckleberry Finn, the central character Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain 78). This casually racist comment—which, in itself, embodies several of the racism-based arguments for the censorship of Twain’s 1884 novel—is one of many that pervades the forty-three chapters of the classic American work. However, the portrayal of racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, though it has not gone uncontested by critics and readers alike, is one that should not simply be disregarded as an insensitive depiction of antebellum race relations.

...Middle of the Racism and Huckleberry Finn: A Look Below The Surface ...

And then, on the river, on the raft with Jim, shucking off that blind ignorance because [he learns] this runaway slave is the most honest, perceptive, fair minded man this white boy has ever known. Another important instance in which Twain illustrates the offhandedly racist attitudes of the characters in the novel occurs when Huck learns that Jim has been sold to the owner of the Phelps Farm. Upon his arrival on the property, Huck lies to Sally Phelps about a steamboat cylinder- head explosion that hurt no one but “killed a nigger,” to which Aunt Sally responds with relief, “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt” (Twain 213).

...End of the Racism and Huckleberry Finn: A Look Below The Surface ...

To the superficial eye, Twain’s descriptions of the customs, attitudes, and viewpoints that prevailed in the antebellum South may provide a false initial representation of the novel’s implications and message. Although the portrayal of racism in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one that may ostensibly appear to distinguish the novel as racist altogether, if a reader looks below the surface, he or she will realize that Twain is simply seeking to alert his readers to the injustice of the racism that already existed in the society about which he chose to write. Through the compelling tale of Huckleberry Finn, readers are reminded of the many aspects of racism that have been overcome, but they are also reminded of the novel’s relevance today and how far American society must still go to achieve true equality.

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