Huckleberry Finn without the slurs: Excerpts from the censored text

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Mark Twain's classic Huckleberry Finn will be scrubbed of its 219 uses of the word "nigger" in a new edition to be published by NewSouth. They say the edit is an attempt to return the book to classroom literature requirements, where its use of the slur (as well as the less frequently used, also to be removed "injun") has long been a deterrent. The revision, as you would expect, has sparked widespread outcry from the censorship-averse Internet. But what will the new text actually look like? The plan is to replace "nigger" with "slave," so we've taken several passages and done just that. Observe the damage below.

Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn't hardly notice the other slaves. Slaves would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any slave in that country. Strange slaves would stand with their mouths open and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder.
"Why, looky here. There was a free slave there from Ohio -- a mulatter, most as white as a white man...but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that slave vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote again. Them's the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me -- I'll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the cool way of that slave -- why, he wouldn't a give me the road if I hadn't shoved him out o' the way. I says to the people, whay ain't this slave put up at auction and sold?"
Well, he was right; he was most always right; he had an uncommon level head for a slave.
I see it warn't no use wasting words -- you can't learn a slave to argue. So I quit.
"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a slave."
"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt."
So that cooled them down a little, because the people that's always the most anxious for to hang a slave that hain't done just right is always the very ones that ain't the most anxious to pay for him when they've got their satisfaction out of him.
And his Aunt Polly she said Tom was right about old Miss Watson setting Jim free in her will; and so, sure enough, Tom Sawyer had gone and took all that trouble and bother to set a free slave free! and I couldn't ever understand before, until that minute and that talk, how he COULD help a body set a slave free with his bringing-up.

As you can see, sometimes the substitution is a little sticky, because they've substituted forced servitude for race. But it's obviously a better solution than going from "nigger" to "African-American." And in many cases, it leaves intent intact.

The first, most important thing to remember about this reprint is that it is not the only edition of Huckleberry Finn you can buy next month, and it won't be next year. The book has entered the public domain. You can read the entire unedited version right now for free online in any number of places. And, of course, it is still being printed in its original form.

So this is not about trying to rewrite history. The question is whether kids in school should be exposed to this language. It's a challenging conversation to have in a classroom, to be sure, but maybe that's the exact reason it's a conversation worth having. On the other hand, you can still have a discussion about the construction of race in America using this new version. And if the choice is between reading slightly watered-down Mark Twain and not reading him at all, it probably makes sense to go with the former.

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12 comments
KVN
KVN

Good thing we never had racism in this country and that now it's not in books anymore. Man, George Orwell had a double-good thing going... frighteningly insightful man.

savehuck
savehuck

Yes! Let's "edit" literature to remove any and all offensive words. Let's make sure that children have no historical and literary context to understand why that word is considered so offensive. Kids are just dumb anyway, so if they read that word they will just start using it all the time. It's so much better for them to hear it only on the street and in music. And while we're at it, can we stop making kids learn about the holocaust too? It was icky, and it makes them sad. Besides, it's never too early to teach the next generation the many benefits of censorship.

Cholostatus
Cholostatus

Give me a break. I'm going to read my copy of Huck Finn out loud to all my friends and family so none of them will ever forget the original version used the word NIGGER! Screw the PC left.

KVN
KVN

I'm not sure this is an issue of PC 'left.' I consider myself the most tree-hugging liberal I know... actually, Twain would likely have voted fairly left, himself (at least sometimes... I don't think he was a party-line kind of guy). This is an issue of knee-jerk inanity.

tooCents
tooCents

Fuck this goddamn bullshit. Censor Mark Twain YOu CUnts makes me wanna to say every naughty word BITCHES.

Zdoublezebra
Zdoublezebra

Adulterating the language like this for purposes of censorship is retarded. You think white kids will not know what the word nigger is or what it means just because they take it out of an old book?

Another thing that makes this stickier is the fact that the word "slave" appears in the book a number of times as well. Mark Twain would be rolling in his grave.

Americircus
Americircus

Yeah but not all "niggers" were "slaves..." Besides, one day the word "nigger" will be synonomous with the word "king..."

Mimihaha
Mimihaha

Are they also going to publish Moby Junk? I mean, if we're rewriting old stuff and taking out the bad words....

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