Excellent responses all around. The "the" matters, in its presence in the
quote and its absence in the title. And it matters, too, that people still
get it wrong, or can't see that they have. It shows how well MT understood
racism and the difficulty of removing it from first the tongue and then the
401 726-1066 (h), 401 447-5908 (m)
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From: Mark Twain Forum [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On Behalf Of John Bird
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2004 7:36 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: "nigger Jim"
Fred, I am going to check "Huck Finn," but I have thought about this a good
bit, and in THAT novel, I don't think he called him "nigger Jim" either. (I
don't like writing this over and over--but we can go a couple hundred more
times before we equal the count in the novel.) Take for example the first
mention of Jim, in Ch. 2: "Miss Watson's big nigger, named Jim..." I
think it is more common to have that kind of separation between the two
words. Clearly, in the novel, the character's name is "Jim," not "Nigger
Jim" (NEVER--I am dead sure of that), and I am nearly as sure about "nigger
Jim." At some point, I think Huck says "my nigger, Jim," but again there is
that comma. I will double-check this, though.
The reason people are touchy about this, aside from the fact that Twain
never calls the character "Nigger Jim," yet many many people, including
noted critics, did and continue to do so, is the naming conventions that
held during and after slavery. Slaves, and then later freed blacks, very
rarely were allowed to have last names, so you have names like "Robinson's
Tom" or "Nigger Dave." Both were demeaning, and intentionally so. I am
contending that one way Twain showed at least some level of respect for Jim
was by naming him "Jim"--and not adding the other word or some other
indicator. But as I say, I'll double check about what you are contending.
And this is not splitting hairs, I don't think--these are important matters.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Fred Kaplan" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2004 4:57 PM
Subject: "nigger Jim"
> As I understand the issue, the argument is not about whether Twain named =
> Jim "Nigger Jim" but whether he referred to him as "nigger Jim." My =
> reference in the bio is to "nigger Jim." And the question is whether or =
> not that is an accurate quotation. The Mac Donnell & the Fisher claim =
> seems to be that Twain never referred to Jim as "nigger Jim." Clearly he =
> did. Am I wrong about this?