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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 29 Nov 1994 23:38:22 -0600
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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        Injun Joe bothers me.  Why does Mark Twain argue so much against the
mistreatment and stereotype of blacks, but then insist on presenting this
disfiguring charicature of an Indian in _TS_?

        Mark Twain, in my opinion, at least concerning blacks, tried to
convince us that blacks weren't special enough to be hated by whites.  What
mean is that Twain tried to show that white people are pretty ignorant, just
in a position over people who are just as unfortunate to be humans.  Having
read _Pudd'nhead Wilson_, I see that it was merely a matter of social
position, and when everyone was returned to their rightful places, no one
able to function.  From _Huck Finn_, I learn that blacks were extremely
superstitious, but wasn't Huck, also?  So when I read _A Connecticut
I realized superstition becomes something inescapable.
        Having thrown all that roughly together, and reading about Injun Joe
in _Tom Sawyer_, the "feel good" novel, Injun Joe becomes that superstition
which Twain himself was unable to cast off.
        God forbid, however, that Twain be realistic. There is a
theory which suggests that when labelled (Injun Joe), that person is
hard-pressed to escape the actions which his peers and superiors expect.
Even if the real Injun Joe was a nice guy, a fictional one is very feasible.
        Today, for example, let us go to a prison and take home with us one
black murderer and one white murderer.  Whom would we fear more?  Twain says
that one is just as despicable as the other, over and over, throughout _Huck
Finn_, _A Connecticut Yankee_, _Pudd'nhead Wilson_, etc. None are exempt
except a special elite. Who are they?