Sunday, October 3, 2010

Huckleberry Finn

I am reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the kids. I just started it last night, complete with dead-on accents and full emoting. The kids thought the whole Tom Sawyer gang requirements were hysterical: no telling the secrets of the club upon the penalty of family being killed. If no family, as is the case with Huck, a proxy will do, namely Miss Watson. Also, they will hold captives and ransom them, which to their confused minds means clubbing them to death. The women captives they figure will all fall in love with them. The gang admits that the cave will become mighty crowded what with men waiting to die by ransom, and women swooning in love with them.

It all takes place in the early 1800's and Huck refers to the slaves as n******. It was difficult to even say the word, and Huck says it repeatedly. My kids had never heard the n word (they haven't heard a whole lot of words). I explained that it was a word to dehumanize and vilify the slaves (and people of color since then) and my daughter said, "Oh, like 'mudblood'." Yes, exactly--like mudblood.

I realize that there are critical views of Twain and the language he used. I know that this is a banned book in many places, because of it. But, I feel that Twain pointed out the extreme hypocrisy of the lifestyle of that time. I want my kids to learn about that. I want them to recognize it now, when they see it. I think it's important to learn. I also think Twain is a wonderful writer and I love his wit and sensitivity. I love how he understands kids and their imaginations and how their thinking is generalized and absolute. He has sympathy for them. I like my kids to know that too.

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