Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Version of Huck Finn to Remove the "N Word"

Hi Folks: This story is getting a lot of coverage today.  There is a new version of the book Huck Finn being released where they take out the "N-Word." What do you all think about this--is it a good solution to help fight racism and get the book more widely read again or does it merely gloss over the problem of racial oppression and tamper with a literary artifact?  -JRR

New edition of 'Huck Finn' to remove 'N-word'

By Amy Guth
Tribune reporter
January 5, 2011

In the new edition of Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" two words will be changed.

The classic novel, being re-released by NewSouth, will replace the "n-word," which appears 219 times in the original text, with the word "slave." A derogatory term for Native Americans will be cut from the new edition.

In a press release, NewSouth says of the decision and of Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben the move is "intended to counter the 'preemptive censorship' that Dr. Gribben observes has caused these important works of literature to fall off curriculum lists nationwide."

In a statement to Publisher’s Weekly, Gribben says of the change, "Race matters in these books. It's a matter of how you express that in the 21st century."

The book has been the subject of scrutiny for a number of years, and has been increasingly banned from school libraries in the US.

"I'm hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified," he told PW. "Already, one professor told me that he is very disappointed that I was involved in this."

UCLA's Twain scholar, Thomas Wortham told Publisher's Weekly the edited version of the classic "doesn't challenge children to ask, 'Why would a child like Huck use such reprehensible language?'"

The Mark Twain House and Museum offers education for teachers on how best to teach the book and its complexities. Education program manager for the museum, Craig Hotchkiss said in a statement to

"The time to read the original version is when the student can understand it in context of history. There are strategies for teaching this book, unabridged."

"I think that things ought to be handled in a pedagogical responsible way. There is a difference between an honors literature class in high school and a fifth grade class taking a look at Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn as a book off American nostalgia. The purpose of literature is to get under your skin. To provoke and that's what Mark Twain does. It's isn’t a feel-good book. It’s a dark book but it’s worth reading because it's timeless. It touches on very core American themes."


  1. I had to read the book, and I honestly don't remember it being that big of a deal to me. It's not something that has stuck with me through the years, nor do I think it stuck with anyone else. I think it's only a big deal if they make it one.

  2. I remember reading this book in school and that it had the "N-Word" in it. When reading it, my teacher made a point to our class that the language in the book was the language of that time period and was not be used outside of class. Even then, when reading out loud I can remember the uncomfortablenss of having to say certain words.

    Stil,I think that the original version of Huck Finn represents a real piece of history and shows what life back then was like- racist sayings and all. We can't just erase the past because we don't like what was said or what happened, and I think the book really shows how prevalent racism was back then.

    Maybe schools can give the option to students of reading the original or reading the new version, but I would say keep the original book!

  3. I think it would be interesting to see what race the people are who are trying to change it. Just a thought.