NewSouth Books is planning on releasing a watered-down version of one of Mark Twain’s greatest books – Huckleberry Finn.
With an unprecedented degree of censorship, they are planning to release a version of the book in which the word 'nigger’ does not appear. If only they could remove the ‘N’ word from all of today’s popular music…
In any case, the problem with this politically correct and historically stupid move is that in Huckleberry Finn, Twain wrote conversation as it occurred at the time of the story – whether or not one finds this offensive is very much beside the point.
Twain was a master of speech, and he wrote as people spoke at the time and place of the story – many terms that appear in Huck Finn are not in general use today. That is because language, especially the vernacular, evolves quickly and incorporates mores and standards of the day.
Censorship – changing the words of great authors – is wrong and pointless. They can change all of the N words they want to, but the times of slavery and terrible injustice towards African Americans in the USA will not vanish like offensive words can be made to vanish from a story.
In fact, Huckleberry Finn and other pieces written during these times should not be altered to fit today’s standards – if anything this risks allowing us to forget or pretend that past was better than it was. And that is an insult to all who suffered then.