New edition of 'Huckleberry Finn' to lose the 'n' word

huckleberry-finnWhat is a word worth? According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s seminal novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will remove all instances of the “n” word—I’ll give you a hint, it’s not nonesuch—present in the text and replace it with slave. The new book will also remove usage of the word Injun. The effort is spearheaded by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who says his PC-ified version is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it. “Race matters in these books,” Gribben told PW. “It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

Unsurprisingly, there are already those who are yelling “Censorship!” as well as others with thesauruses yelling “Bowdlerization!” and “Comstockery!” Their position is understandable: Twain’s book has been one of the most often misunderstood novels of all time, continuously being accused of perpetuating the prejudiced attitudes it is criticizing, and it’s a little disheartening to see a cave-in to those who would ban a book simply because it requires context. On the other hand, if this puts the book into the hands of kids who would not otherwise be allowed to read it due to forces beyond their control (overprotective parents and the school boards they frighten), then maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. It’s unfortunate, but is it really any more catastrophic than a TBS-friendly re-edit of The Godfather, you down-and-dirty melon farmer? The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn’t affect the original, is there a problem?

What do you think, Shelf-Lifers? Unnecessary censorship or necessary evil?

Comments (1322 total) Add your comment
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  • Barry

    Censorship at its’ best.

    • LOL

      Dr. Laura used up all the N words. They had none left for this edition.

      • Lazo

        Haha…darn that Dr. Laura, using up all the racial slurs like that!!! Shame on her.

      • silverrose

        it was either her or ALF

      • Kelcie

        HA! That cracked me up – and I’m a black woman who’s not fond of the ‘n’ word. Censoring those words is a bit frivolous. Are we going to edit Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five”? Because that book could be viewed as being “anti-war”. That emphasizes the perspective and mindset of the time and of the characters. It’s realistic and honest. I could go all college-level lit class, but I’d rather not. :)

    • Ian

      I’m as against censorship as anyone, but I wouldn’t call this censorship. Censorship would be editing the book, and then making sure all copies of the original text were destroyed so nobody could ever read them. As of now, you can still easily and legally find the original text anywhere.

      • jordan

        lol, no this is definitely still censorship. i wish that this would include the fact that it is edited in the title. slave seems like an odd word to replace the ‘n’ word with, though… doesn’t really mean the same thing. personally, i will have my children read the unedited version when i have them, and use it as a chance to explain racism to them (if this book doesn’t do that on its own). still i do believe that in schools it is an iffy book for youngsters in an environment away from their parents, so that is why i’d just prefer they would call attention to it as “an edited edition” or something.

      • Dede

        What’s next? Since slavery makes people uncomfortable, Jim will be rewritten from a slave to a hired field hand? Twain knew what he was doing when he used the words he used and he did it masterfully. Racism existed when he wrote it and it exists today. Twain wrote Jim’s character to point out to us our own uncivilized ways.

      • Jason A. Quest

        Saying that it isn’t “censorship” unless the government does it, and they’re 100% successful, is naïve. If the MPAA and cinema owners require a filmmaker to remove male nudity to get an R-rating and thus to be played on their screen, that’s censorship. If a TV network (or web site) requires a substitution for the F-word to get shown on TV, that’s censorship. It’s not as if governments were the only entities with the power to effectively limit what people see and hear.

      • P. Tab


        Thank you for the most intelligent post I have read on the internet in weeks.

      • Anchorite

        You’re apparently not as much against it as I am. Should we change Schindler’s List to exclude all material about the Holocaust because it is offensive to present handsome main characters taking part in genocide, even if the movie’s intent is to criticize it? Personally I think that by using the most offensive words possible, which are still in common use today in some parts of the US, it is more of a criticism of slavery, and to pretend these words weren’t used is to destroy the novel’s effectiveness.

      • jeremy acton

        editing isn’t censorship?

      • Charles Davidson

        Don’t you have something else to completely construe?

      • Tyrone Hogglegg

        Spot on Dede…thank you

      • Allison

        It is censorship. This book is considered a classic. I am a black person and Huck Finn is one of my favorite books along with Tom Swayer. I love Mark Twain. I read his books growing up over and over and over again just so I could get lost in the pages of adventure. What is wrong with you people. Don’t you have any imaginations? What are you afraid of? Your own racisms and prejudices? Children are not born racists they are made that way by the parents. Perhaps if you teach that people are just people and you can not like some one because he’s a jerk regardless if he’s black white or pruple we would all be ok. Stop walking on egg shells.

      • Ted

        If you want to edit the book, then do so. But, take Mark Twain’s name off of it because he didn’t write it. Otherwise, pure censorship.

      • Neil

        Censorship. Seems to be destroying the original context of the times and lessons Twain meant to teach. All to sell more books to an ignorant 21st century audience.

      • Sigh

        How ever you feel about the words used, without keeping history and literature in tact and learning how things used to be, you will not be able to correct behavior and more likely return to the behavior that you eradicated from the history/literature books.

      • Steve

        I get the point but it is still censorship. It should be labeled so there is no confusion about which version you’re reading.

      • megumi

        Ummm, I think you could call this polite censorship! So new books printed from now on will use slave, and when all the old books are destroyed or lost in time the edited books will be all that’s left for future generations to read!

      • Tequana Zombini

        This is pathetic. I’m betting it’s not the word in and of itself to which those schools in Alabama are objecting, but the fact that it’s used by a white author. It’s clear that these communities are very comfortable with the word until it passes white lips. In the novel the word has context and very powerful social implications that Twain worked so masterfully to convey. If neither are considered useful, then simply ignore the book and find more saccharine material with which to fill the curricula. Agree with Ted’s comment that Twain’s name should in no way be attached to the censored version.

      • Clark

        @Dede, I think you meant, “Unpaid hired field hand” :)

        Good points

      • Ian

        @ Jason A. Quest – I agree with you about the MPAA. I never said anything about movies. The MPAA makes sure that no theatre will show an NC-17 film with the deals they have in place with the theatre chains. I also said nothing about the government needing to be involved for it to be censorship, so I’m not sure what you were reading into my post. My thought is that for it to be true censorship, the original text needs suppressed. In this instance, as long as the original text is widely available to anyone, then this falls into the same context as showing Goodfellas on network TV and editing out everything objectionable. If there’s an edited version of the book available as well as the original, and there’s a clear distinction between them, then I can simply ignore the edited version, just as I ignore the edited version of Goodfellas on TV. People are up in arms because it’s a classic novel, by a classic author, but why wouldn’t you be just as upset about a classic film, made by a legendary filmmaker, being edited heavily to air on network TV? What’s the difference? In actuality, the work of filmmakers is edited much more than this book will be. Language, violence, nudity, sex, and any other objectionable content can be taken out of a movie, yet one word being replaced through a novel is censorship, even though the original work is just as readily available as the original version of every edited film? Making it certain that no one can see or read the original work in it’s intended medium is censorship (hence my objection to the shady practices of the MPAA which makes it impossible for some filmmakers to get their work on screen the way they intended), but simply making an edited version available, as well as the original, is a different monster, and a massive gray area. Just my opinion, and like others I have no interest in the edited version whatsoever. My hope would be enough people think it’s a dumb and pointless endeavor that no other books fall into the same trap.

      • Brian Evans

        Yes, it is in fact censorship when they do it on TV too… the only difference is that we’re so used to it that we don’t complain anymore.

        But yes, TV is censored, and yes, it pisses me off when they change good movies to air them on TV. It’s just not news so it isn’t getting talked about right now.

        But my guess would be that most people who have a problem with any censorship have a problem with all censorship. At least they should.

      • scott

        you are nuts censorship is censorship. listen to a rap song you leftist wacko, you probally still worship micheal jackson

      • Joseph English Major

        This is a travesty. What’s next the Bible? Catcher in the Rye? This book is used to teach against racism. If we repackage it with prettier words are we not doing a disservice to the one people we are claiming to protect?

      • Bob B

        No this is the re-writing of a great writers work…You can call it what you want but this is another example of our society being controlled by the politically correct so called progressives. The work taken in it’s proper context represents the cultural attitudes of the time and reflects on how people spoke. To alter that would change the historical context of the story which should never be tolerated.

      • joesmom

        Twain wrote satire so everything was overdone, including certain words, which her purposely chose. First, that is how people spoke in those days, and second, Twain wrote the book to highlight man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man. The only characters with any smarts are Huck and Jim! The whole point of the book is to show how evil people can be, and sanitizing it dilutes the point. We should never forget how slaves were treated, and this book should be left as it was written. If it bothers some, well then they have the problem!

      • Silv

        This is a prime example of overly sensitized political correctness. Caving in to the spineless will not erase our ugly history. You want to clean up the ugly “n” word? Start somewhere where the lesson will do more good – like hiphop.

      • Suze

        @megumi… WHAT?!?!? Editing a book like this is completely pc’ing our nations history and will destroy how our children view the past. If we keep dumbing down our kids they will one day think, “oh, well slavery wasn’t all that bad… and the holocuast? that never happened!” In a few decades even the term “slave” will be offensive, and Jim will now be known as that kindly black fellow who is a family friend and is no way a man we force to work for us….

    • Chris

      Mon 01/03/11 7:15 PM

      I happen to know the editor of this edition. He’s a world-renowned Twain scholar (search his name on Google books and see how many hits you get). He loves Twain and has devoted his academic life to the study of Twain. He does not favor censorship of Twain. This project resulted from visiting many small towns in Alabama, on a recent speaking tour, and being told by teacher after teacher after teacher that these teachers loved Twain but could not teach Twain because the book was considered so painful by so many readers — simply because of one word. Like it or not, that is the situation in many schools today. Of course, anyone who knows the book well will know that it condemns slavery and that Jim, in many ways, is the real hero of the novel. Gribben’s edition is merely an effort to make sure that more people have the chance to read the novel. Once they read it, many of them will get “hooked” and will want to read the real thing. The edition will have a lengthy preface explaining the nature of the edition and how the edition came to be. No one will ever be able to mistake it for the “original” edition. Ironically, anyone who reads Gribben’s edition will know that the word “slave” is replacing the “n” word, and so the irony and impact of the book will not be entirely lost — not at all. The book will stimulate more discussion and study of Twain, which is always a good thing. I urge anyone who is troubled by censorship (as all intelligent people should be) to wait until the edition appears before passing judgment on it. By the way, the edition pictured by EW is NOT Gribben’s edition, which will make its intentions quite clear and explicit. Gribben is a good man who loves Twain and wants more people to have the chance to fall in love with Twain themselves.

      • amy

        What an articulate and impassioned defense you’ve presented. Bravo. Race is still a very complicated matter in our country, and esp. in the south, and I hope this edition can make its way into classrooms where it wasn’t before. It hadn’t really occured to me prior to reading this that it wasn’t.

      • David

        I greatly respect your opionion but and what he is trying to do. But I cannot disagree with you more. To edit a single word of any novel that stands as a testiment to the American Novel is disrepectful to the orginal. The discussion that the N-Word brings about in the classroom is one of the most powerful tools of the book. To edit a author’s word is the highest possible form of slaunder to the orginal. If the school chooses not to allow it to be taught in the classroom (as it was taught to me just 5 years ago) than any substitute simple pales in comparision.

      • Chuck

        I think the visceral reaction to the n-word is part and parcel to the impact the novel has. The casual use of the word is central to situating people both young and old in the time and place the novel takes place. The genius of the book is that it somehow seems to have foreseen where American race relations were headed and sought to not only edge American society (and ALL western societies for that matter) towards the logical conclusion of equality, but to remind us of the inequality that existed in that time and how language was used to maintain and reinforce that inequality.

        Although this is a crass comparion, Mad Men’ depiction of women’s treatment in the workplace reminds us not only of how far we’ve come as a society but, with retrospect, allows us to truly understand what it was we were guilty of as a society. Understanding the n-word in the contemporary context and seeing used in its historical context allows one to approach the subtlety and complexity of racism and how it can profoundly hurt but also,quite tragically, empower individuals. Something that is a key to understanding why racism exists at all.

      • USARugby

        your comment is well worded and thought out, and though he had good ends, I still don’t think this justifies the means… it is censorship, even if for a good cause. Our world isn’t perfect so if this is what it takes to get kids to read twain, then so be it. I just hope they don’t stop publishing the original

      • Tim

        You can defend this anyway you want it still does not make it right. Racism is part of American history and if your going to teach kids not to be racism let them read and understand what it was and why it was wrong. The “N” word itself is not racism it is the way it is used and the people who use it. Are we to the point were are kids are so dummed down that we as adults can not let them read a classic such as this and see for themselves what it was that was so wrong. Lets stop being so politically correct that our children forget what our history is about and why the people who fought and died for what was right did what needed to be done so we could be a free nation.

      • Idiots

        Instead of editing a classic, why not let parents take the time to explain to their kids the meaning of the “n” word, why it might be offensive to use it, and how it fits into our history. Use the original edition as an opportunity to teach, don’t rely on a “PC” version so as not to offend. This country is a bunch of wusses.

      • Robert

        If it is painful to hear that word, then let it be so. The classics teach us many things, and they aren’t always the most pleasant topics. All sides of humanity should be discussed, pleasant and otherwise.

      • yabbut

        I understand what you’re saying, but you’re wrong.

      • Dano

        Just because Gribben loves & studies Twain doesn’t give him the right to change his work. Some people are so arrogant anymore, blows my mind. Who is this protecting?

      • Geoffrey Sperl

        I appreciate your take, and Gribben’s motivation… but this is poorly thought-out. Mark Twain knew the power of those words and used them for a specific reason. If a teacher cannot teach the book because they are unable to deal with the discussion arising from it, then Twain’s initial reason for using the word in the first place is still valid and reinforces the necessity of its preservation within the text.

      • Dino

        Well, the editor may be a renown scholar and a lover of Twain but it has no relevance to the merits of his decision to change the original work. Additionally, his reasons, as you stated them, are faulty. If teacher after teacher wants to teach Twain but are unable to do so because of the n-word then the problem isn’t Twain but the system that is putting ridiculous constraints on the teachers. I am offended at the fact that a work about slavery is butchered to fit within the confines of educational censorship. And give me a break! People can’t read the work because of the n-word? How hard is it to explain to a student that this should be taken in a historical context. My 7-year old would get it. In fact, it would be a great opportunity to teach him what was wrong with that time and slavery. In the end, I believe your defense of the editor stems from the fact that you know him personally. Well, that’s very clever! “I know him, he’s a nice guy and a good scholar. Thus, what he did is right.” Please, take some logic lessons before you construct arguments.

      • Christopher Thomas

        Yes, indeed, an articulate and impassioned defense – not that one was needed. I appreciate the note that there will be warning labels and disclaimers that the new edition is NOT the original – thank you. I don’t believe there was any malice in the original writing, the ‘n’ word was just a word. I do have a little regard and and even less patience for the hypersensitivity of any group where WORDs cause them “pain”. Verbal statements are non-violent expressions provided they are accurate and the originator has the opportunity to (and will) make clarification when requested. The meaning of many terms evolve, the ‘n’ word no exception, but any of those words still function as an idea communicator, possibly needing differentiation.

      • J.B.

        Well said. Thank you. But, if that word is that painful why aren’t people taking action to remove it from popular media where it most directly impacts youth? Twain used his characters as dramatic vehicles. I first read the book when I was ten or so and understood clearly even then that they were exagerated characters meant to convey a story.

      • Uncle Rando

        How weak are we as a country that we can’t look at our past, no matter how painful? Not one word should be changed in that novel. Ugly language? You bet. Part of our past (and I wish racism was only in the past)? You bet. The PC movement doesn’t facilitate communication, it shoves it in the closet. The first thing I taught my children was there are no such things as “bad words”. There are however bad intentions and people who give these words power are at fault. To put the blame on the words themselves is to displace the blame. Twain’s words were an accurate reflection of the times themselves. I would rather use those words to springboard the discussion of racism and the “power” of words rather than hiding them. Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it, and it should be remembered for all its shamefulness, backwards thinking, and painful rhetoric.

      • D.J.

        IT IS MEANT TO BE PAINFUL! For crying out loud, that is the freaking point. And, any Twain scholar/lover who would have the arrogance to “edit” Huckleberry Finn is neither in my opinion. This is completely indefensible.

      • Richard

        You present an excellent and articulate description of the situation. My take on it though has to do with once again, kowtowing to liberal political correctness. Personally, I believe the books should be read as written. What’s next?

      • Sandra Helton

        I wholeheartedly agree with P. Tab. Dede made the most intelligent post on the internet yet. I could not agree with you more.

      • Lisa Simpson

        Richard, poltical correctness has nothing to do with one’s political leanings. Most of my friends are liberal, and they are hardly the most politically correct bunch around. And they are all outraged over this desecration of a literary masterpiece. While some issues of politeness and sensitivity have been lumped into the PC category, it has more to do with one being overly sensitive rather than with one’s political leanings.

      • MB

        I disagree completely.

      • So Cal Native

        Very nice, thank you! As a teacher, I realize the importance of this and the true power of parents in this day and age…

      • Tom

        I understand the logic, but it is still pretty sad to see literature corrupted for political correctness. You say teachers complain they can’t use the original version because of one word. Aren’t teachers supposed to explain stuff? The word in question was a part of the vocabulary in Twain’s time. Sure times have changed and the “N” word is not considered acceptable today. Why not take the opportunity to explain how times, and our vocabulary, have changed? Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t really solve anything. The word was, and still is, used. Ignoring reality isn’t really education.

      • Eric Harrington

        This guy is chopping up a great work of art because one or two words are “painful”? What a pathetic nation we have become if we let such an issue stand between us and a vital piece of literature. People need to understand and face this pain, in order to learn the true impact of Twain’s words. IMHO, when art leads to pain, it’s a good sign that those in pain need that art more than they need comforting ignorance. Teach the original!

      • Petey

        But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? A great book is supposed to challenge – and Huck Finn does, largely because of how frankly it addresses the issues of race and slavery. That the book is painful or uncomfortable is a big part of the reason it has such an effect on people. It’s precisely why the book should be read and taught, and unexpurgated.

        You make an eloquent defense of the new version, Chris, but it’s fundamentally a defense of a cop-out. That the book is “painful” is not an excuse. It’s just the opposite in fact.

        This is a foolish idea which will only undermine the book’s power and artistic merit. I hope to God it doesn’t become the preferred version.

      • Gary Engel

        Sounds to me like that is more of a problem with the school system than the book.

      • Kevin

        I am a teacher and I have taught Huck Finn. My classes and I have had wonderful discussions about race and the use of the n-word in the novel as a criticism of racism by Twain. While I understand the editor’s reasoning, it is still a cowardly act to censor the novel. Giving in to people who are afraid to discuss a topic or who want to shield their children from ever hearing anything controversial will not make these controversial subjects go away. We must allow the discussions to take place both in the classrooms and at home in order to properly address issues such as racism and the many other problems we see in our nation today.

      • Allison

        As a parent, I refuse to let my child read this watered down version of a true classic, I also refuse to let my child learn the watered down history being taught in school today. Just because you want to hide from the truth and history does not mean it did not happen. Those who do not learn from history are doom to repeat it. My child at 8 already knows about the slave trade, not this Atlantic triangular trade which suggests that the slaves got something out of being sold like cattle and abused.

      • Scott

        Sorry Chris….if this guy was a true renowned Twain fan he’d be fighting these changes. Twains words (even his use of the N word) is the reason why it’s a classic you dolt. That word is just as powerful today as it was back then…..if not more. And I’m pretty sure Twain wanted it that way.

        While we’re at it…how about we just go ahead and re-edit EVERY classic rap album ever made that uses the “N” word. How about every freggin movie….every other book that has the N word. You see where this is going?

        You my friend may have good intentions….however you’re not thinking of the far reaching implcations and consequences of these actions.

        NewSouth Books…shame on you for destroying a top 10 American Classic novel. I’ll be sure to NEVER buy a book from you.

      • VFoster

        What’s needed is not “dumbing” down a classic so it’s not “painful” to readers. Part of the impact is representing the language and culture of the time. Reading it now, as originally written, highlights even more how much has changed and how much more needs to be changed. Too much is already “dumbed” down and made “PC” to not have to confront difficult issues. Yes, we find such words offensive now… but we shouldn’t hide from them.

      • Dawn

        I have been a high school English teacher for 19 years in Georgia and have taught Huckleberry Finn many times. I have never had a child refuse to read the book or a parent refuse consent for the simple reason that we spend several days discussing the history of censorship surrounding the novel and the reasons for and impact of the use of the “n” word. We also do not read the word aloud in class, ironically substituting “slave” as well. However, students still see the word in Twain’s original and intended context. With thoughtful planning and sensitivity, most conflicts about the book can be avoided without editing Twain’s words. He knew exactly what he was doing.

      • Tom

        Thank you very much for that clarification! I sure wish all of that information had been in the original article, it would have saved a lot of confused shouting.

      • Dimslie

        In my lifetime it’s been “Colored”, “Nigra”, “Nigrow”, “Kneegrow”, “Soul Man”, “Brother”, “Afro-American”, and now, “African-American”. I can’t help but wonder if 50 years from now little Johnny will be sent home from school for using the “A.-A. word”.

      • Matt

        Chuck, that might be true but I think him constantly referring to “N-word Jim” as “Slave Jim” would serve the purpose of reminding us what Jim’s status in life is just fine. Not saying I am necessarily sold on bowing to moronic parents, but it looks like they’ve already surrendered to them anyway.

        For the record, I really don’t like Twain’s books. Have them read Tolstoy or Hugo.

      • kimy

        what a well thought out post. i do think it is censorship, but if it makes Huck Finn/Mark Twain more accessible for teaching, then so be it. what is the bigger crime….replacing the n-word with “slave” or not reading Huck Finn to school children at all? personally, i choose the latter.

      • Larina

        “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” -Mark Twain

      • Bob Dobbs

        What you fail to mention is that even though your editor friend loves Twain, what he loves more are paychecks. Seems like another re-branding episode from Coca-Cola. The New Twain. Looks like Twain, but reads like Dr. Phil.

      • Alex

        Nobody ever reads the preface.

      • Alyssa

        I did a paper on Mark Twain my sophomore year of Highschool. He is one of my fav. authors. Slavery existed back then along with Racism. Its sad there are still some Racists in 2011. But if people become more open-minded that can be eliminated. Changing a book is not the way to go.

      • Lerosn

        So your argument is….
        IF you are a renowned scholar, THEN censorship is ok? Got it.

      • Mark

        So we sacrifice an actual teaching opportunity about how a brilliant author will use a word to condemn both the word and its connotations to give the immature a watered-down version that never challenges that immaturity, but allows people to wallow in it far past the age that it should be challenged. This is not the way to show love of Twain or any literature. Literature should challenge people’s perceptions and preconceived thoughts, not be weakened to go along with them.

      • SouthMouth

        The “renowned scholar” comment is utter tripe. If you know this editor, feel free to tell him that he’s a complete choad (maybe he could edit that term into his name on the cover?). he’s not worth the term of scholar with this behavior. period. and there are hundreds of thousands of readers and scholars who know so. this is as bad as the texas school districts that mandate changes to biology texts. if you don’t get that, then you don’t get twain or literature. jebus. what a joke. if mark twain were here, i believe he’d punch you and your “renowned scholar” friend in the neck. cheers. choads.

      • WOLFSENT

        If people are offended by the word because that’s all they read, then they have no business reading it. When I was in school, my teacher was a black woman who I worshipped. SHE had no problem reading this book to us and was intelligent enough to explain the times and context. This is just simple pandering to the PC group and one more example of the “dumbing down” and mind control of America

      • J

        >>>No one will ever be able to mistake it for the “original” edition. Ironically, anyone who reads Gribben’s edition will know that the word “slave” is replacing the “n” word, and so the irony and impact of the book will not be entirely lost — not at all.<<<

        Then what's the bloody point??? All this will serve to accomplish is to make teachers take MORE time from the little they have to explain why words were substituted, which will waylay what could have been a very productive class discussion of the real issues the book presents.

        Censorship aside (for that reason alone, this should never have been allowed), your defense of this new edition is weak and illogical and merely proves the opposing argument.

        We don't alter literature because a group of people can't deal with it. They're the ones with the problem, NOT Mark Twain.

      • D

        Excellent post.

      • flowerchild

        @Chris, Since you know Gribben, could you give him a message, please. This is censorship. It is irreverant. He should be ashamed of himself. It doesn’t belong in America. Twain meant for their to be a sense of pain in our history. It’s what build America.

      • Dana

        Hey teachers, here’s what you do. Tell those complainers to read the book or fail that unit. Problem solved.

      • Em

        Kids reading the “edited” version will begin to think that this was the original intent by Twain. What happens when they find out that it isn’t? The actual language used by a writer has meanings beyond its literal interpretation and the way a person reads it lends to each interpretation, creating conversation and exploration of the text and themes. How can this scholar know what Twain was getting at when he, the author, put those specific words into the text? They are there for a reason, and anyone who assumes that they know the author’s intent well enough to change them is wrong. Yes, we may be in a different century, but 1.) kids need to learn about the past (should we sensor the civil rights movement and tell kids that Martin Luther King, Jr. made his “I have a dream speech” and everyone just said, “Ok,” and everything was better?), and 2.) there is a reason this novel has survived, even with all of the attacks and banning against it. Changing anything in the novel, especially now, so far away from the historical context it was written in, is robbing it of its power.

      • dawnomite

        “Hey teachers, here’s what you do. Tell those complainers to read the book or fail that unit. Problem solved.”
        @Dana – If only it was that easy. Teachers have almost no power anymore. In my teaching career, the option to “fail” a student at any level (test, project, course) was discouraged and nearly prohibited. Thus stripping the responsibility from the student to attain their own success.

      • waya

        Ugh, the book is supposed to be painful! Twain exposes bigots for what they are – idiots! Not a word should be touch. If words bother folks, then GOOD, it should. Then there should be discussion on why things like this happened and how it can never happen again. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it!

      • Ben

        While the intentions are laudable, this is absolutely censorship. And Bowdlerization. A work of art is changed to remove the offensive parts. The real victory would be to change the hearts and minds of those who require this sin against literature.

      • Brian Bailey

        Love Twain as Twain. The teachers he is hearing this from should be reprimanded for doing their students the disservice of not giving them the truth.
        If they are considered too young, immature, or fragile to handle the truth then save it for later in their educational experience.
        O Captain My Captain!

      • Brian Bailey

        Bravo Chuck!

      • tom tac

        What is missed here ….

        … Aren’t most of us here very familiar with “Kid’s Editions” and “Abridged” works?

        That _is_ what this is. BUT …

        Is that the cover at the top of the blog column? It doesn’t say “Abridged” or “Edited” anywhere. Just that it is from Bantam and is written by Mark Twain.

        So I am wondering just how prominently the edition displays the announcement about this revision. If I remember so very far back, when I was young and a teacher handed me a book I had to read, I automatically skipped the Foreword and Afterword. The students in Alabama probably will, too.

        This is an example of “accepting the reality of the School Board”, and although I am painfully happy that young students won’t miss out on this novel “because of one little word” … (warning, ‘slippery slope argument’ ahead) … I applaud Dede’s comment above. I’ve already seen what textbook-by-committee yields, that is, bending over backwards, to absurdity, to avoid controversy. We will end up with more revisions — removing the parts in the novel about boys and girls being different, and adding Becky Thatcher to the raft because adventures aren’t just for men you know. The King and Dauphin won’t be welcome, because we don’t want to end up teaching our youngsters about royalty, and especially not about con-games. On and on …

        Please speak and write against this “unlabelled abridged version” whenever it comes up.

    • Jay Thomason

      Time to stockpile copies of the original so any kids and grandkids I have can know that the word and idiots that use it still exist.

      • Amber

        I think it’s dangerous to edit the word out of its original, racist context. If it is edited when it carries that meaning, my four year old may grow up thinking it is a perfectly acceptable nickname that rappers throw around at one another. It is an offensive word, but by censoring it’s original usage, we distill its offensive nature and risk reintroducing it to the popular lexicon.

      • Peter

        Go to the Gutenberg Project and print out as many free, legal copies as you want. It’s in the public domain, and it’s not going anywhere just because someone is publishing an edited version. I was exposed to several versions of the story before reading the full version.

    • sam9999

      Wowwwwwwwwwww. So it’s come to this. Let’s just tidy up all of the little facts in our history that make us uncomfortable and whitewash (yes a Twain allusion) our past. I dare say the N word is more widely used and accepted now (by blacks) than at any other time is history. Just tune in to some urban entertainment and see for yourself. Hey, while we’re at it let’s go ahead and remove the N word from the ‘Straight Outta Compton’ album. See if it still has the same relevence. What do they say about those who choose to forget their past? “Steeeamboat’s a’comin'”

      • Shiroferetto

        Sam9999: I couldn’t agree more. Love the whitewash allusion. Nicely done and very poignant.

        Needless to say, I find the censorship of Huck to be more offensive than the n-word that exists in the original text. It compounds racism with the effort to pretend it never happened. Really rather like Holocaust deniers, ‘eh? Because if we choose to forget, we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

      • Kam

        Unless you have a study saying that Blacks as a monolothic group accept the N-word, please don’t spread misinformation that it is more accepted. They remove questionable sexual lyrics in KidzBop songs so I don’t know why people are complaining about the N-word.

      • jroc

        music has long been edited for play on the radio, including the works of (N).W.A. Right now you can turn on the radio and listen to Cee-lo’s “Forget You”, although that is not the original title. What is the diff?

      • sam99999

        Kam – first of all it’s very obvious that use of the word is widely accepted. And of course not all blacks accept it. But by your logic the people removing the word from twain’s work are assuming it offends all people and therefore it must be removed. If we’re worried about offending children then maybe they should wait until they’re older to read it. Not all books are meant to be read by children and if we’re going to decide that this book’s language is inappropriate for children then maybe we should raise the age of readership instead of changing the book. It’s like removing alcohol from wine so children can drink it, instead of having an appropriate drinking age. Having said that though, I read this book the first time when I was 8 years old and didn’t make me lose my mind or anything when I read that Word.

      • sam99999

        jroc – one difference is that we can choose to listen to the radio version or go elsewhere for the real version. These kids are only being fed the fake version of the book and missing out on the full historical context of the time. Second, there’s plenty of people, myself included, that are completely against the edited radio versions as well. If a song is too profane to be played on the radio then it shouldn’t be played there. It’s not like the kids don’t know what they’re really saying anyway. As an aside, to compare the work of Mark Twain with anything played on pop broadcast radio today is an unfair and unequal comparison.

      • BlackIrish4094

        @Kam, tell me you did not just compare one of the greatest works in American literature to KidzBop changing lyrics? Get a clue idiot…

      • SouthMouth

        How about NWA? I guess it should properly be Slaves With Attitude? African-Americans With Attitude? That means the exact same thing. Right? Love your comment.

    • DC

      Shame on the pubisher; now there is a whites and blacks only version.

      • Will

        Ha! I thought legal segregation had been abolished…

    • Ryan Simpson

      THisis plain censorship through and through. Have we gotten so “PC” in this country that we cannot leave a classic alone? What is next?

      • Liz

        Burn em.

        “Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ‘em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That’s our official slogan.”

      • Ally

        Nice Liz. I was wondering when Bradburry would come up. :-)

      • Casey

        Oooh, very nice Liz. Kudos. And basically what this is paving the way for. Start hoarding your books people…

      • Liz

        Aw guys, I’m blushing, seriously. :)

    • Jeebs

      Huck Finn was from an era gone by and it’s language is part of the feel of the time. I am completely against all this pc stuff. Editing the N-word IS a form of censorship that I find ridiculous. What this is saying is that intelligent people can’t tell the difference between blatant racism and an interpretation of the times. We should be insulted.

    • Zombie Jesus

      I’d love to see the un-edited version of the bible. Now that’s going to be wild.

    • clare

      This is ridiculous, we cant re-write history!

    • Mavent

      Maybe if we as a society hadn’t decided to give Ultimate Power to one stupid word, we wouldn’t be in this position.

    • Jammy

      I hear Tom Sawyer will be re-written with no mnetion of the fence painting scene since this could be construed as violating child labor laws which would be insensitive to the country of ____

      Thought Family Ties had an epic episode on this very subject of the cencorship of Huck Finn go watch on – Jim was the hero of the book they point out…another point was made by Nick when he said “ehhhhh” miss Scott Valentine

    • Jill

      I think that it should be left as is. I want my children to see our history as it was and not soften it due to some more sensitive people out there. If you change this book then you open the doors to changing many others. I can’t believe that this is even being considered!

  • Howard

    This is totally wrong!! Who are these idiots to think they can update Twain?

    • joblo

      Hey, maybe we should re-edit Schindler’s List and remove all of the disgusting things that the Nazis do. After all, it’s OFFENSIVE, and we need to be careful about “how you express that in the 21st Century.” This is the height of stupid. Whitewashing the language of an era does nothing positive and makes it impossible to learn from that time.

      • Dgently

        Love this, joblo

      • jordan

        schindler’s list is not shown to young children, the diary of anne frank is (or read). i’m still on your side for the most part (see my above posting), but that’s not a fair comparison.

      • Brandon in FL

        Completely agree

      • jroc

        Schindler’s list is edited when aired on TV.

    • Bozobub

      Schindler’s List IS shown to rather young children, at times. If the parent(s) feel up to explaining the film’s concepts, I see no problem with this.

      I feel exactly the same way about Huckleberry Finn. How about some Alabama parents get off their lazy duffs and DISCUSS THE BOOK with their children..? Hell, my mom MADE me read it, but I guess I’m an exception, considering I 1st read Animal Farm at 3 or 4 (started reading at 2-1/2, it was in my grandpa’s bookshelf – lol).

      • dawnomite

        Just have to say that not all Alabama parents are morons, but it’s an easy target, so I understand.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Reminds me of the time I got in trouble in class when reading a short story I wrote about WWII and I used the word Japs…I was writing from the perspective of a WWII soldier and was trying to be authentic.

    • AA

      You should have gotten extra credit for being authentic. I bet all of your classmates didn’t know they were called “Japs”.

      • AA

        “Nipponese,” as well. Did you run across that one?

      • Peter

        “Nipponese” is not offensive. “Nippon” is the Japanese word for Japan, and people from there are Nipponese. What *is* offensive is “nip”, which obviously is similar to “jap”.

    • Tyrone Hogglegg

      I’d rather they burn books than edit them…but you know, that’s pretty damm close….

  • Winona

    So I suppose now that those offensive words are removed, we’ll never see it on banned books lists anymore?

    Really not sure how to feel about this – why can’t they just print the book with an “it’s from a different time when language like this was acceptable” disclaimer? I suppose this is the literary equivalent of Disney excising the black centaur from Fantasia…

    • maybe later

      It is not the same thing as the removal of “Sunflower” from Fantasia. The character of Sunflower has absolutely nothing to do with any of the other content of the film. It barely has anything to do with the scenes in which she appears. She was nothing but a bad and gratuitous racial joke when she was new and she hasn’t gained any relevance or reason for being in the years since. Disney, a company that is rarely right about anything, was absolutely correct in excising the character from all editions of Fantasia intended for general release. Changing the very specific language used by Mark Twain in “Huckleberry Finn” is to change the character of the entire work and to change the specific intent of the author. Even in Twain’s time the “N” word enough ugly weight that it seems unlikely an author with Twain’s feel for both language and social custom would use it casually. Twain knew it was a strong, ugly word. He also knew that it was the word those characters would have used. To change that is not just to change the book, but to change history.

    • GeorgeLucasCanSuckIt

      this is a more extreme version of that time that George Lucas edited the original version of E.T. to make the guns look like walkie-talkies. As offensive as the N-word is, what publisher NewSouth Books is doing is far more offensive – slicing and dicing a piece of fantastic literature. What’s next, To Kill A Mockingbird?

      • Mike

        I’ll agree that this “editing” is quite offensive in itself.

        Also, FYI, George Lucas had nothing to do with editing E.T. That was Steven Spielberg.

      • TAK

        Han shot first!

      • Maude Gordon

        When they do the PC edit of “To kill a mockingbird,” they’ll probably call it “To seemingly kill a mockingbird, however, no actual birds were hurt in the naming of this novel.”

      • AltDave

        “To Humanely Euthanize a Mockingbird”?

      • GeorgeLucasCanSuckIt

        I stand corrected, Mike. Deep down, I knew Spielberg directed and produced E.T., but I must have been confused because the “walkie-talkie” censorship debacle happened in the midst of George Lucas tragically mucking up the original Star Wars trilogy. All I can say, is that I hope that this Huck Finn censorship doesn’t influence publishers to censor other classics that use the n-word in the same way that Lucas seemingly influenced Spielberg to crap all over a classic.

      • The Pint

        A more accurate analogy would be to how Lucas changed the cantina scene in Star Wars so that Greedo shot first so that it would justify Han Solo shooting him dead. Which was just plain stupid. At the time, Solo was a mercenary and a good one – why wouldn’t he shoot first since Greedo was threatening him anyway?

      • Brian Bailey

        To Seemingly End A Mockingbird’s Life

  • Buddymoore

    As long as this new edition doesn’t replace the original edition on shelves, but instead sits along side it as an alternate, I’m okay with it.

    • Felicia

      I agree. I hate the idea of it but have to admit that when I listened to the audio book recently in my car, I stopped when the kids were with me because my youngest has a tendencey to use ugly words–outside of my hearing, of course–when he is mad without knowing what they really mean. As long as they don’t alter all of them, I find it acceptable.

      • Magical Thinking

        I understand that maybe your kids are too young for you to explain the word to but if they weren’t that would have been the perfect time to start a discussion.

    • Sacto

      But this new ediition WILL. The older editions will go out of print and all that will be left will be this ‘revised’ edition. Hopefully the other publishers will not follow suit and leave the book alone. To the posters who say this is a good thing because the n-word makes them uncomfortable, I say good, it should. To remove the word from the book is to strip the book and the word of its power. Where does it end?

  • Wesley

    Although I completely recognize the social significance of the word itself and how its offensive nature to many people, I do not believe the word should be removed. This book is a literary classic depicting a time within history when that word was regularly used, its removal would only further the words misinterpretation in todays culture discontinuing any historical understanding of its definition.

  • Lisa Simpson

    While I understand the problems with the words, whitewashing the books will do no one any favors. It takes away the opportunity to teach the complexities of the characters and the reason people use racial slurs.

  • wolodarsky

    yes, let’s improve history. always a good decision. why actually tell a story like it would be told during the time period? lying is better.

    • Jana

      Agreed! We cannot erase our history. It’s not saying it is acceptable, but it is what it was. I cannot even believe this!

  • BLM

    This book is a reflection of the time in history in which it was written. To change the language is to change its history. It should be left as it is.

    • AnnaCatherine

      Well said. The “N” word gives an identity to Joe. And I agree, it has historical significance. So much of our past is in novels. Mark Twain new exactly what he was doing. He wrote for posterity.

      • Sue1

        I completely agree with you both, very well said indeed.

  • Jon

    Sigh. Oversensitive PC-ness run amok. How about just plain old historical accuracy?

  • Brian


  • Jay

    This is a travesty.
    I dont condone racism, or any kind of discrimination, but once a text is published, it should remain unchanged forever.
    The US has become a nation of uptight, PC wussies.
    We will be overtaken by some other nation that has the inner strength to ignore B.S. just like this someday

    • IReadBannedBooks

      Unfortunately that just doesn’t happen. Most of what I have to teach my high school students is abridged (read dumbed-down) versions of the classics. And that’s how I see this. BTW, I’m black. I read Huck Finn in high school and I have no problem with the N word used in the context that Twain uses it. What’s next? We take out the sexual innuendo from Shakespeare? Or make Lenny Small “normal”? How about cut all the violence out of Clockwork Orange? This is ridiculous. If its a case of young children, the answer is simple. Maybe YOUNG children should not be reading Huck Finn yet anyway. YET…

      • Warren

        This is not an abridgement. It changes 200+ instances of a single word to another word. It makes perfectly clear that the word has been changed. Thus anyone reading the book will know that where “slave” is printed, the “n” word was probably the original word. If a reader wants to check to be sure, HF is all over the Internet in free editions. Do you teach HF? If so, how do your African American students react when you read the “n” word out loud to them or when they have to read it themselves 200+ times? More to the point, how might they react if a non-African American teacher were teaching the book? I understand and sympathize with concerns about censorship, but if you have a better solution to the problem of the growing neglect of the book, please explain what that is. All the “contextualizing” and “explaining” suggested by other posters have not been notably successful. Teachers have been trying that for decades, to little avail. The REAL censorship of the novel occurs when teachers silently decide just not to teach the whole thing.

      • AA

        ” What’s next? We take out the sexual innuendo from Shakespeare? Or make Lenny Small “normal”? How about cut all the violence out of Clockwork Orange? ”

        And if they DO make those changes (and they will try), all books by all authors will start to sound the same. So why bother reading at all?

      • Bliss

        “The REAL censorship of the novel occurs when teachers silently decide just not to teach the whole thing.”

        No, I’m still pretty sure it’s still when the Purity Commission starts rewriting literature.

        Next up: Lolita! This time, she’s 21!

  • Buddy

    Pure stupidity. I am a completely liberal, progressive pro-racial sensitivity American and I am still utterly offended that a classic work will be stripped of its original wording to suit a modern agenda. Race is a part of Huck Finn. More importantly, it features the the theme of overcoming racial differences as seen between Huck and Jim. To take out the threat of constant racism, differs and lessens the journey Huck goes on toward discovering the societal injustice of things such as the “n word” which will now mysteriously cease to exist.

  • JenD

    Any type of censorship breaks the Constitution, but this situation especially frustrates me. Books like Huckleberry Finn are a piece of history. No one should be allowed to alter history just because they don’t like it. I’m not a fan of the “n-word” myself, but we should be allowing our kids to learn the entire truth about that time period, even the ugly parts.

    • Ana170

      This does not “break” the Constitution. The book is still available in its original format. I’m not sure who owns the rights to Huckleberry Finn but it sounds as if this writer is well within his rights to make these changes. That said, I agree with your last sentence. This is unnecessary and could also be hurtful in the long run. There are more than enough people who don’t understand why the so-called n-word is hurtful. I’ve been hearing more often that it’s now a term of endearment. Attempting to delete it from its original context isn’t doing anyone any favors.

      • Lisa Simpson

        The work is in the public domain.

      • The Truth

        Then that writer’s name better be on the book and not Twain’s, because Mark Twain did not write this version.

    • maybe later

      I’m totally against this bowdlerization of “Huckleberry Finn”, but your statement that any kind of censorship breaks the Constitution is nonsense. First of all this isn’t censorship. No one is forcing this publisher todo this. Whether you or I like it doesn’t change the fact that they have every “right” to do it. Second, if you think any kind of censorship breaks the Constitution I would be very interested to know how you feel about child pornography.

      • joe adlai

        actually, this is censorship. it is the suppression of thought that is considered objectionable. censorship does not require that the publisher be forced to make these changes.

        also, your child pornography example is not only ridiculous in this context (seriously, how are these two issues in any way related?), but also not applicable to this argument. Child pornography by its definition requires the violation of another’s rights (i.e. a child’s right to not be molested). this does not. as to whether or not it is a violation of the constitution, I tend to think not, since the original version is still available.

      • maybe later

        Actually child pornography does not necessarily “violate another’s rights((i.e. a child’s right to not be molested)” since it is defined as any sexual depiction of an apparently underage person. If you take a picture of a 30 year old who can pass for someone underage you can be convicted of child pornography. If you draw a provocative picture of an imaginary child you can be convicted of child pornography. I am not defending child pornography or it’s fans both of which I find repugnant, but it is censorship and therefore is relevant to the original comment’s ridiculous statement that “Any type of censorship breaks the Constitution”

  • jake

    This is ridiculous. I feel this is not just whitewashing a book but our history. Huckleberry Finn is one of the most important depcitions of this time in America’s past. It is important to preserve it, especially the uglier parts of it.

    • James from Dallas

      It is disturbing yet not unexpected that revisionism in the context of revising of historical classical publications is now politically correct, especially when we are in the age of George Orwell’s 1984 society where much of society is moving to computers and computerized books. If this is an attempt to alter our society for the better, about treating people right with equal protection for all, then lets kill racially-based affirmative action. Let the paths we have in life be determined by the actions and choices we make. Fruits of labor should be determined by hard work and dedication, not by handouts. The term compensatory justice should also disappear. Let’s stop penalizing the white male majority. And, by the way, all things being equal, whites are now a minority in Houston. Should they now eligiable for favored minority contracts? Does anyone remember the Bakke case in California? Maybe it is time to shut down all groups that promote a racially-based agenda such as the NAACP? In being politically correct, I take offense to this organization as much blacks would take offense to “National Association of White People” (NAAWP). As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He meant all people of all colors, not just his kids, right? Let’s have equal protection for all. And, in my view, reflecting upon history and its mistakes, as-is, makes us strive to be better people. Hiding history leaves the door open for it to happen again. It is said, “Those who do not study history are bound to make the same mistakes at a later time.” Whitewash history, change the context of history, and it will happen again, even if it is not in our lifetime.

      • Shannon

        Thank God someone has the courage to speak the truth!!! Well said!! I never thought I would witness this kind of censorship in my lifetime in the United States. I guess it’s only ok to say the N word if you’re making millions as a rap artist !! Everyone should stand up and say NO to this !!!!

      • LIsa

        Brilliant! well said!

      • appalled

        And we should go back to the ’50s where we had Jim Crow laws and women weren’t allowed in the professions? Where white men held all the power and liked it?

      • @appalled

        Oh, c’mon, that is NOT what James said at all.If you don’t “get it,” don’t comment – you only come off looking stupid.

      • Robert Salas

        Well, I read carefully what he said, and while the essence of what he wrote is noble and just, it is an ideal that cannot yet be realized because of continued prejudices. And plain and simple: if you haven’t lived as a person of color, or as a woman in the corporate world, you don’t have enough information to speak with authority on the subject.

        You can, however, become a soldier in the fight against such prejudices so that perhaps your children can work and live in that ideal world.

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