Skip to Content

PC version of Huck Finn removes the word “nigger”

New South Books plans to publish a new, PC-sanitized edition of Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, reports Publishers Weekly. It replaces the word "nigger" with "slave", and makes similar edits to other words deemed offensive. This is lunacy.

PW writes: " For decades [Huckleberry Finn] has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation's most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word." That's true, and that's a problem. But publishing a white-washed version does not challenge this educational philistinism dressed up as social sensitivity, it makes a terrible concession to it.

Some pundits support the move. Keith Staskiewicz at Entertainment Weekly writes: "If this puts the book into the hands of kids who would not otherwise be allowed to read it due to forces beyond their control (overprotective parents and the school boards they frighten), then maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge."  Rob Anderson at Boston.com is also in favor:

 The "n" word today is not the same thing as it was 100 years ago. And while we shouldn't get in the habit of editing books as the meaning of words change over time (that's what footnotes are for, after all!), sometimes it's okay — especially when the meaning of a word, like the "n word," has changed so significantly. Yes, the "n word" was impolite and rude when Twain included it in the book — 219 times, to be exact — but it didn't carry the same historical, cultural, or political baggage that it does now. If any word deserves to be nixed, the "n word" would be it.

But it appears that the vast majority are opposed to this new version. A poll that accompanied Anderson's article found that 95 percent were against, while another, at National Public Radio's news blog, found 96 percent thought it was "the wrong thing to do". Alexandra Petri at the Washington Post draws out the absurdity of it:

It's not about avoiding an awkward classroom moment, or they would have removed the word "ejaculate" from Victorian novels, where everybody is always ejaculating about everything. It would be like renaming 1984 2084, "because the current title does not reflect how pleasant life was under the Reagan administration." This is like changing War and Peace to Peace, because war is unpleasant to remember, or removing World War I from All Quiet on the Western Front.

Mark Twain defined a "classic" as "a book that people praise and don't read". Sadly, this seems to be the status of Huck Finn in recent years. We should not only oppose PC editions, we should get the original one back on reading lists.

One Response to “PC version of Huck Finn removes the word “nigger”” Leave a reply ›

Leave a Reply

Archives

CONTACT ME

I'd like to hear from you. Feel free to email me with comments, suggestions, whatever. I can be reached at mail@americansituation.com.