Mark Twains story The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a racist, immoral book that should not be taught in American High Schools. As a childrens story, Finn is an exciting tale of a boy and a runaway slave riding a raft to freedom. As a book to be taught to 16-year-old English students, it is a novel that incorporates serious racist issues conveniently hidden among its many scattered plots. From the beginning we are warned persons attempting to find a plot will be shot,(Notice) suggesting that, as analyzing novels is a central theme in English classrooms, Finn may not be the best choice.
The protagonist, Huckleberry Finn, is a 14-year-old white boy growing up in Missouri, who lives his life running away from his problems, lying to everyone, stealing, and using everyone he comes across. He fakes his own death very convincingly, and all with the cool, level-headedness not akin to young boys.
Well, next I took an old sack and put a lot of big rocks in it, -all I could drag,-and I started it from the pig and dragged it to the door and through the woods down to the river and dumped it in, and down it sunk, out of sight. You could easy see that something had been dragged over the ground. I did wish Tom Sawyer was there, I knowed he would take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy touches. Nobody could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing as that.(Ch. 7)
This character isnt probably what the youth of America needs to be learning about. His ability to remorselessly lie to people to get what he wants, is a frightening characteristic, which isnt one that should be taught to impressionable students. He has taken the pretense of his own death and, in his mine, placed it in the category of the imaginary robbers and thieves games he used to play with Tom Sawyer.
Hucks companion on his trip down the river is Jim, an uneducated adult, black slave who has run away hoping to make it to a free state. The way that Huck treats Jim at times, lying to him or belittling him is racist and wrong. Hucks ability to disregard not only Jim, but all African-Americans is appalling. Their lives seem to not matter in his scheme of the world. Huck can change his ideas to suit the situation, disregarding that Jim is the only truly trustworthy person that he has associated with in a long time. Early in the novel, after the storm where Jim and Huck are separated, Huck tries to convince Jim it was all a dream and have him analyze what he dreamt happened. Jim, who was overjoyed to see Huck back safe and sound, eventually realizes what Huck is doing, and becomes hurt. Yet, it was fifteen minutes before I could humble myself to a nigger (Ch.15) While Huck does eventually apologize to Jim, it seems to be taking him longer because he is black rather than white.
Racism, a hidden, underlying theme that runs through the novel, isnt presented in a way that encourages healthy discussion, but rather in a way that may make students, Caucasian and African-American alike, feel uncomfortable. If the object is to learn about and discuss racism openly, there are far better books that let the reader know from the start that the book will be centered around racism, such as Uncle Toms Cabin. The knowledge that the novel of choice will be including deep discussions on racism, is a knowledge that could help not only to caution and warn the students, but also, so that the may begin to think about the issue, and help facilitate discussions. Besides this, while it may show the time period, the word nigger was definitely overused. While the use of the word may have been used as a tool to show the reader life in the Deep South, it could be shown in different ways or in a textbook, but not a fun adventure type story.
Not only is this story about a basically morally corrupt young man, it is also the story of a black slave whose character seems to become more that of a character of a minstrel show than a tragic runaway slave in search of freedom. The moral issues, if not enough by themselves, (with Hucks evasion of religion, responsibility, truth and other examples of potential moral corruptness), only pave the way for the racism issues, buried underneath the other plots, leading an unfavorable example for young adults in High School.