The saying is true, some people just can’t handle the truth – or their own history, as it turns out.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, has been dead for more than 100 years. But as is the case with many great artists, his work continues to cause waves.
After making the banned books list from the beginning and causing controversy since its publication, one of his most beloved novels, “Huckleberry Finn” has finally lost a censorship battle.
Alabama publishing house NewSouth Books is releasing an edited version of the novel in which all mentions of “Injun” and the N-word are being replaced with “Indian” and “Slave,” respectively.
“Huck Finn” defends itself in its opening paragraph: “That book (Huckleberry Finn) was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.”
But the truth is hard to hear. This was one of the main reasons for the edits, with school children in mind, but it makes the censorship no less insulting to Twain’s work and a backwards step in our development as a country.
Changing the words in Twain’s novels changes the tone of the story and softens the impact of a powerful work. “Huckleberry Finn” was a novel about an era where those words were prominent, and is intended to criminalize, not glorify them. The novel, which follows two boyhood friends, was anti-racism in a big way.
Yes, unpleasant words exist, but by censoring them you not only draw more attention to the negativity, but also you ignorantly act as if pretending they’re not there will make them go away. The only way to truly accept and resolve the problems in our past is to face them head-on, which is what Twain was attempting to do in his novel.
As a renowned author, he never used a word casually or without intent.
What’s worse is that, because the work has drifted into public domain and Twain, and his family, have passed away, there is no one to defend the novel, no one to protect his masterpiece.
In the famous novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” author Oscar Wilde develops the character of Dorian as a man plagued by his own conscience. Having found, what he believes, is the source of his immorality in life, Dorian confronts Lord Henry about a little yellow book, which Dorian says “poisoned (him).”
Lord Henry replies: “Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
And a shameful country we must be, if we cannot face our own past.
Emily Handy is a senior majoring in mass communications.