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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Huck Finn's antiracism

Cases like this remind me when parents start calling for bans of wide spectrums of controversial books and then it is discovered that they have never actually taken time to read the book, which is supposedly upsetting their child so much.

A 2006 case from Houston Community papers featured Alton Verm and his then 15-year-old daughter Diane who wanted to ban Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 because:
"It's just all kinds of filth," said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read ‘Fahrenheit 451.’ “The words don't need to be brought out in class. I want to get the book taken out of the class."
Diane added, “The book had a bunch of very bad language in it, it shouldn't be in there because it's offending people. ... If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all."
The irony of ironies here is that Fahrenheit 451 is a book ABOUT BANNING BOOKS. The title comes from the high temperature tipping point, at which books burn!
The same can be said for ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ when Holden Caulfield sees some obscenely described graffiti, splayed on the school walls and out of love and respect for his little sister Phoebe, becomes determined to scrub off all the F.U.’s in the world, so that she should never have to see one. If J.D. Salinger had not chosen to insert these harsh words to describe what Mr. Caulfield was seeing, his poignant point would have come across too diluted.

Huck Finn, the same way. Every year or so, parents in some communities want to ban this book because of Mark Twains liberal use of the N-Word, an accurate depiction of the language in its time and copious contexts. Yet, if folks went to the trouble to read between Huck Finns fishing lines, they would see, it is one of the most ANTI-RACISM books ever. After all, Huck decides that he would rather go to ‘the bad place,’ then to sell out his friend, the runaway slave Jim. How many of us can say that we would be as loyal to the closest of our cherished friends, especially if they happened to be born into a dissimilar race?

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