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Donovan Dicks

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Synthesis Essay


The NAACP, a civil rights group dedicated to defending ethnic minorities in the United
States, believes Mark Twains novels should not be banned in schools. The organization defends
his novel Huckleberry Finn, describing it as a satirical but accurate portrayal of a period in
history and an aspect of American society at the time, namely slavery. The NAACP makes a
reasonable claim, however it requires further qualification.
Twain wrote about a specific part of American history and culture, a part which still
echoes today in modern society. Slavery was an important part of this nations history. Twain
lived in this time, and wrote about the world around him. His novel includes many usages of the
n-word, and although it is offensive, the language depicts Americas past and altering the
language is to not be true to the period in which Twain was writing (Source F). The novel
should not be banned or altered for its offensive language, which does not reflect Twains own
opinions. Literature is an essential piece of history, and provides a window into the past for
modern readers. To censure the work would close this window, and remove part of the novels
historical accuracy. Judge Stephen Reinhardt says a necessary component of any education is
learning to think critically about offensive ideas. Without that ability, one can do little to respond
to them (Source D). Education is critically linked to a childrens success in society, and
understanding the literature of the past allows students to understand offensive language and
topics. Without this, students are less prepared to face the society around them. Society is
uncensored, and its something schools are supposed to prepare students for. To censure a novel
would hinder a students understanding of the world they are a part of, and defeat the purpose of
education. The NAACP is right to defend this novels implementation in school curriculums.

While the novel does enlighten students today about an important piece of American
history and culture, there is a necessary qualification to teaching the novel. The NAACP says to
study an idea is not necessarily to endorse the idea, and this is essential to the novels presence
in schools. Twains novel discusses many aspects of life in the South on the Mississippi River,
including slavery. The purpose of his novel was to make his readers consider the world around
them, particularly slavery. Twain repeatedly makes subtle comments in the novel signifying his
intent to encourage the comprehension of equality amongst races and to discourage slavery. Peter
Salwen, Source B, says a closer reading reveals Twains serious satiric intent. Salwen is right
about this in two aspects. One, Twains novel is indeed satirical and ironic and serves to pose a
position on an argument while criticizing society around him. Two, that to understand this intent,
a reader must analyze the novel, and not merely read it for face value. In order for the novel to be
properly integrated in classrooms, the teacher and the students must put forth a cooperative effort
to properly investigate the novel in its full meaning. Sometimes it is necessary for English
classrooms to be uncomfortable, but the discomfort will subside and a proper understanding of
the novel will take its place (Source E). By teaching the novel, one does not therefore endorse
slavery. Comprehending and analyzing the ideas in a novel is the goal of an English class.
Huckleberry Finn should remain in classrooms, as long as both teachers and students are capable
of analyzing and understanding the satire of the novel rather than absorbing only the offensive
language or ideas.