Well, yes and no

Striking out the word nigger every time it appears in Huckleberry Finn is a kind of ethnic cleansing, a pretence that in the land of the free no one referred to black people by a demeaning term once the Civil War had been won.

For while the novel was written well after the Civil War (1884 first publication) it is set well before it, some indeterminate period between 1835 and 1845.

The setting  must be pre Civil War….otherwise, how can you have a runaway slave?

9 thoughts on “Well, yes and no”

  1. Yes, but the language used is contemporary. We don’t write in Saxon when we tell the story of the Battle of Hastings.

  2. PC-speak is so confusing. One minute ‘nigger’ is being excised from a classic work of literature in English; the next some rap artist is “reclaiming” the word for general usage. Or gays are objecting to the use of ‘queer’ (or ‘fairy’) one minute and other gays are talking about “queer” studies the next (or saying ‘fairy’ is quite acceptable).

  3. paul ilc

    only certified oppressed minorities are allowed to utilise degrading forms of speech.

    Its all very logical don’t you know.

  4. Kay Tie: Perhaps not, but you would expect someone writing a drama set in the nineteenth century to have picked up a little of the cadence and language, even if they didn’t always get it spot on.

  5. Kay,

    Yes, but the language used is contemporary. We don’t write in Saxon when we tell the story of the Battle of Hastings.

    Saxon is in effect a foreign language that few would understand. Presumably it’s OK to read Madame Bovary in English if one isn’t fluent in French?

  6. Presumably it’s OK to read Madame Bovary in English if one isn’t fluent in French?

    Of course it is. But one would hope the word nègre (if it appears in MdB) would be translated properly to convey its full offensiveness.

  7. I once picked up a modernised version of Shakespeare (presumably for primary students) that changed a sentence something like this

    “Methought I had been shot with Cupid’s Bow”

    To a sentence more like this

    “I fell in love.”

    These prurient changes are irritating, patronising, and idiotic – but, in the case of classic works by Shakespeare, Twain, and others, largely inevitable.

    In the end most people to who reading matters will gravitate towards the uncensored versions, so perhaps it matters little.

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