Imagine what would happen if we started censoring works of art that society found offensive: the very meaning of free speech would be lost. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain has been under debate for many years over ideas considered racist. However, in more recent years, the book has been subject to much disagreement over whether or not certain racist words such as the “n-word” and “in***” should be replaced with the words “slave” and “Indian.”Censoring Twain’s text is unethical and there are no genuine moral grounds to support replacing the words.In his article “Taking the ‘N-word’ out of Jim,” David W. Boles criticizes the idea of censoring Twain’s words. He addresses the issue by first giving an insight to the problem when he mentions an English professor, Alan Gribben.
“I found myself right out of graduate school at Berkley not wanting to pronounce that word when I was teaching either Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer,” Gribben said.
This reaction is not unusual, given that the word in question is offensive and used freely throughout the text. One can certainly understand this professor’s discomfort pronouncing the word while giving a lecture to his classroom, since this is one of the main reasons for censoring the book.
A point in favor of censoring Twain’s book is to make it suitable to teach in lower-grade classes. The two main reasons for censoring Huckleberry Finn are that it is uncomfortable to teach and schools could teach it to far younger classes if the words in question were replaced with “appropriate” words. The intention behind censorship is noble in its own respect, but there are a number reasons why it would not solve the “problem.” It is important to understand that despite the luxury of censoring unwanted words, the freedom of the author’s speech is at stake.
“I wouldn’t want my younger sisters to read those words, but censoring them takes away from the historical accuracy of the time,” freshman Selah Cosentino said.
In response to those who support censoring the book for a younger audience, I argue that replacing this author’s words would be a clear violation of his freedom of speech and a felony against his personal property. Indeed, it is important to understand that Mark Twain chose his own words for a reason and that there are no ethical grounds that support modifying the text into a “G-rated” book.
Furthermore, it is also important to understand that Twain used these words in his own cultural context of the time and did not intend to promote racism.
“If we start changing cultural references in every piece of literature, then eventually Jim is going to be a ‘friend’ of Huck’s because slavery is offensive in general,” sophomore Josiah Maroquin said.
It is clear that this attempt to censor the work of a classic American writer is unethical, as it jeopardizes the author’s freedom of speech and is a sign of disrespect to the author’s original work. Perhaps in the future there shall be a compromise between both parties, which would only remain ethical if there were to be a “children’s version” of the book suitable for a younger audience while leaving the original version as it is and was intended by its author.