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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 11 Dec 1998 16:00:48 -0800
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"David S. Barber" <[log in to unmask]>
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It's fine to just enjoy the story, as James advises, but Jocelyn
Chadwick-Joshua's book is about using Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the
schools.  And if the book has only enjoyment to recommend it, while it
offends some people, why bother?

Like Vern I was somewhat taken aback by the uncritical stance of Kim's
review of The Jim Dilemma (though Wes Britton wrote about it in September in
a similarly enthusiastic vein).  I think that Chadwick-Joshua oversimplifies
the issue to the extent of  ultimately not being very helpful.  She does
make good observations about Jim, and - jargon aside - her use of classical
rhetoric provides a helpful way of talking about Twain's presentation of Jim
and Huck.  The oversimplification comes from her consistent THEM vs. US
stance.  She is always referring to those with whom she disagrees as
"opponents."  Not just HER opponents, but opponents of Twain's book!  These
"opponents," who for the most part are unidentified, sort of generic, are
always suffering from "misconceptions" and "misinterpretations,"  which she
corrects with THE truth as the argument proceeds.

        It is an unfortunate matter of timing, I assume, that Jonathan
Arac's Huck
Finn as Idol and Target came out too late to be dealt with in this book; but
Arac raises so many issues challenging Chadwick-Joshua's point of view that
her silence on these issues means that the debate hasn't progressed very
far.  Someone should have said Hold the Presses, to allow for continuity in
the line of debate.  If that had happened, I imagine that Arac's level of
sophistication would have force Chadwick-Joshua to rise  to a more complex
level of argument.  And she might have backed off from her assumption that
those who question Adventures of HF's appropriateness for high-school
curricula are just "opponents" suffering from "misconceptions."

        Back to Vern:  it may be that Arac is one of those "modern day
of political correctness," a "dimwit" and a "bozo."  This is a less polite
way of reducing people to "opponents."  It seems to me singularly unhelpful.
Even John Wallace, that easiest of targets, began his campaign against
Adventures of HF as "racist trash" (he's a true opponent) because of an
emotional trauma suffered by his son when the book was taught in his class.
Real people with real sensitivities care about this issue.

        There's political correctness, perhaps, on both sides of the fence.

Dave Barber