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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 21 Mar 1995 22:50:42 EST
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I don't have any additional information on the New Haven banning of HF,
but I did recently receive an interjection from another "channel" which
might cast some light. Here, verbatim, is that recent interjection:

    "As far as the matter of HUCK and that one offending word:  When I
wrote HUCK if I had not used the word "nigger" no one would have believed
my story; no one would believe it now.  That's a fact. I didn't use that
word because I liked it.  I didn't like it!  And I don't like it!  But it
was necessary.  A good writer ALWAYS does what is necessary for the
story, the world's opinions be damned!

      I have taken a deal of criticism over that one word lately, but a
hundred years ago, when HUCK was fresh in the world, the criticism was not
over that word at all.  The criticism was over the fact that Huck was not
an obedient child but was rebellious and lawless and of a low character.
He had wild ideas, crazy ideas.  Huck was careless with other people's
property and disrespectful of their legal rights!  He had sinful ideas
about violating God's natural order, treasonous ideas about following his
own uneducated notions.  Huck Finn set himself up against the rule of law
and against the rule of heaven as well.  He was ready and willing to
follow his own conscience - straight to hellfire if necessary.  Some
folks thought it their sacred duty to stop a reckless boy like that; some
folks still do.

     So you see, in those ancient days, Huck was in bad odor for the
stretchers he told and his general attitude toward church-going
respectability.  The nut of it was that Huck set his cap to get ol' Jim
free, the law and the consequences be damned!  HUCK was ignorant,
unwashed, uncivilized and unfettered!  Some folks back then
could not abide such a thing in a boy.  They wanted to have Huck banned
before he became the idol of their young.  The ban in those by-gone days
had nothing to do with any offending word - no sir, the entire book was
the offense!  As a rule, I don't generally like criticism of any sort,
but I'll take the present kind by the hatful and call it progress."

Paul Berkowitz