I love when an idea for a blog entry lands right in my fucking lap. Today I was walking to lunch and I pickeded up a copy of the recent Rhino Times, the right wing weekly rag out of Greensboro. I only read it for the column by Orson Scott Card, fiction writer. In this week's column he discusses classic books that have fallen out of favor. He mentions Uncle Tom's Cabin and Huckleberry Finn. In his discussion of Huck Finn and it's anti-racist message he mentions how he thinks the liberal use of the word 'nigger' is what is keeping it from being appreciated fully. He does put forward an idea that I found disturbing. He mentions that he thought purists who were against altering the text were over reacting. He states that "purists would scream 'censorship' and 'artistic integrity.'" He may have a point, classics have been updated to comic book forms in the past and changing a few words to get past current sensibilities may be alright. Why doesn't he do that himself? The book has long been in the public domain.
I thought about for a second and I decided that taking the offending word out of the text would be a horrible mistake. The use of the word is not gratuitous and the question is not whether or not the word is correct, as Card pointed out. It is accurate and the removal of the word lessens Jim's indignities. If you were to substitute the word 'slave' or 'black' for 'nigger' you would be elevating this country's former institution, giving it a dignity it does not deserve. What is literature but truth? Removal of one word chips away at the truthful slice of American life that Mark Twain presents to us.