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Eunice Yoo

Mr. Hemphill

English Honors

November 3, 2003

Racism in Huckleberry Finn

        Throughout history, there have been heated debates over Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn and the supposedly racist themes in the story. Many schools have even banned the book on the basis of the negative depiction of one of the characters, Jim, a black slave who holds racial stereotypes throughout the story. However, before one begins to censor a novel one should separate the ideas of the author from the ideas of his characters. If one cannot read between the lines and find the true themes of the novel, then obviously the story may come off as racist. Twain satires the malicious views of society such as slavery through irony, which many people misinterpret as racism. Also, the novel takes place twenty years before the Civil War, a time period where racial statements and views resided in everyday life. Hence, if one reads the story a bit more closely one should realize Huckleberry Fin does not revolve around racial ideas but rather the wicked outlooks of society in a pre-Civil War time period.

Many people misinterpret the irony and the main point that Mark Twain tries to establish in the story. John Wallace once said, “It’s the most grotesque version of racist trash” ever written. Many readers misinterpret racist remarks made by the characters in the novel as reflections of Twain’s own beliefs advocating slavery. However, Twain once said, “One of my theories is that the hearts of men are all alike, all over the world, whatever their skin complexion may be.” If Mark Twain was not a racist individual, it is highly unlikely that his books could be racist. This brings into question Twain’s frequent

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use of the word “nigger” and the exceedingly racist views expressed by most characters. Although the book is peppered with racist stereotypes and belittling remarks but Twain uses them as a part of irony. Huckleberry Finn is not racist but a profound social statement on the inhumanity of slavery with irony and satire. For example, in chapter 32 Aunt Sally and Huck discuss a steamboat explosion, “Good gracious! Anybody hurt?” she asks, “No’m, killed a nigger.” Anyone who took this statement literally misses the point. Twain uses this casual dialogue ironically as a way to show the chilling ...

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