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"Martin D. Zehr" <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 18 Apr 2007 17:39:11 +0000
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I have to interject, after reading Bob Brownlee's comment on Sam Clemens and
racism, with which I heartily agree.  Sam may have backslid (backslud?)
occasionally, e.g., his stereotyping comments in "Concerning the Jews" are
enough to make armchair liberals, myself included, cringe.  The fact
remains, nonetheless, that, insofar as racial attitudes are concerned,
Clemens was light years ahead of his countrymen/countrywomen.  Regretfully,
almost a century after his death, the observation is still valid, and the
continuing relevance of his insights regarding race constitute a primary
reason for our continuing fascination with the man and his work.  Regarding
the "racism" in Huck Finn, I recall that the first time I read the book, at
the tender age of twelve, or thereabouts, it was a completely sanitized
version.  Not knowing any better, I thought it a curious and entertaining
book, but not much more.  Years later, after reading the 100-proof version,
I remember feeling cheated, !
even angry, that I had been cheated by some idiot of much of the force of
the book, a force which could only be conveyed through Twain's deliberate
use of the language, thought and culture which he knew all too well.  It is
Twain's ability to make vivid the mores, language and racism of his youth,
through the voice of Huck Finn, that leaves us in awe of his creator.
'Nuff said.

Martin Zehr, Ph.D., J.D.
University of Saint Mary
Leavenworth, Kansas