Classic novel should be left un-edited

Recently the classic Huckleberry Finn has gone through an editing process—one that many disagree with. The “n-word” has been taken out of the newest version of Huck Finn, and orders have already been made by different schools for this new, “politically correct” version of the classic. This butchering of the novel is supposedly to make the book better, but classics should never be changed for any reason, and certainly not because a word from the time period has become taboo.

Mark Twain’s novel has been controversial since it was published. It was originally banned because it showed too great a friendship between a black man and a white boy, and it has made the list of most frequently challenged books from 1982-1992 and 1995-1996 due to its rough language and racial slurs. Intended to make a statement, Huck Finn does just that, and changing the basic structure of the book to make it more “politically acceptable” is both unrealistic and dishonest.

Mark Twain grew up in a slave-owning home, but he married an abolitionist and was an outspoken critic of racism. When looked at from a narrow point of view, the book does include racial slurs and Jim, a slave, is uneducated and superstitious. However, when the scope is broadened and the time period taken into consideration, the true point of the book was to speak out against racism and slavery. Huck Finn was a social criticism, and Twain is not giving the impression that the word is right by using it.

Derogatory terms hurt, and they should not be tolerated. However, ignoring them will not eliminate them. By taking words out of a novel that has been around for over a century, they are given more power, rather than less. Instead of being words that were commonplace in an unfair time and today have no purpose, they become the monster in the room, the big, ugly secret no one wants to talk about. Moreover, these words are still used today, sometimes as close as in the hallways of our school. Students should be taught what they really stood for, in an effort to discourage racism today.

The new versions of Huck Finn have taken the racial slurs out because some believe that students should not be forced to read them. These people are well-meaning and are obviously right about the fact that racial slurs are terrible, hurtful, and should have been eliminated with slavery itself. However, they fail to realize that Twain was being true to his time.

Changing the language diminishes both the value and integrity of the writing. It turns the novel into an ordinary piece of writing, because it takes away the context. It deprives students of the historical accuracy and, more importantly, the significance of what Twain’s true intentions behind the words he uses.

Schools should stick to the original version, with the understanding that censorship of a classic is never the right thing to do, and should not be tolerated. The work stands on its own, and is a vision into a world we fail to understand. That, more than anything, is its purpose.