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 Huckleberry Finn...appropriate in its historical context? 
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I was wondering what everyone else in our class thought of the argument that the racist terms and language in Huckleberry Finn is just a display of the times? If you look throughout the book you can clearly see the grammar that Huck Finn uses is evidence that he was a poor, unschooled boy; and Finn using a racist term was also part of the common vernacular of postbellum Southern society. What does everyone think?

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A. Kyle Whisenant


Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:37 pm
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I did have to read this book in high school and I didn't think that it was that big of a deal. Because the book did use racist terms my teacher privately spoke with the African American students in my class. She had "check-ups" with us where she went over our grades and homework so she just spoke with them at that time so that it wasn't obvious. The only reason that I knew was because one of my close friends was black and she told me about it when we began reading the book. For the times, the language is accurate and it would not have made sense to write it any other way because the terms were not offensive, and the author could not have been fully aware that they would be so inappropriate in the future.

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Katherine Stover


Wed Mar 25, 2009 4:35 pm
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I agree with Katie. I had to read this book in highschool and did not seet his language as back because it was how those people talked in the time period written about. This language adds character to the book and teaches the students alot about the racial class sturcture of America's past.

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Katherine Gray Nelli


Wed Mar 25, 2009 6:36 pm
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I think that as a teacher you have to take into account that this book was published in 1884. I think this book accurately portrays the language and culture of the time. I mean if you actually read the text itself yes it uses the word nigger, but the book does have moral themes: by humanizing Jim and exposing the fallacies of the racist assumptions of slavery, is an attack on racism. You should be able to teach to your students that racism is bad, using degrading language is bad and take into stride the language used in the book.

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amy butler


Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:57 pm
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I agree with what every one has said so far. I also had to read this book in high school and i thought because the text was like that it made the book more interesting. It added character to a book that we had to read for school. It made it different and more interesting knowing that it was written so long ago and that was the way people talked back then. I could see how people could take offense to it....but they could take offense to many other books also. Just because this book has historical context to it doesn't mean it should be banned from school. How are kids going to every learn about things if everything that is bad is banned?

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Samantha Neader


Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:39 pm
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I think students who are old enough to read this novel (it's probably most often used in 11th grade as part of American Lit) are old/mature enough to understand the use of the racial slurs. I mean it's not like it's a big secret that people talked like that back then. Pretending they didn't and hiding from it doesn't change anything. I went to a school with a pretty equal amount of white students and black students. Nobody voiced any concerns about the racial slurs because the teachers explained the history.

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Natalie Brady


Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:14 pm
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I remember reading Huck Finn in school in Mr. Walls 11th grade lit class. I never remember there being a problem with the book. I know we talked about the violence in the book but after reading it, I never developed a disire to go on a rampage through Raleigh or did anyone else in the class that I know of. As far as the language in the book, I was in an upper level course so we had perhaps a bit more... percieved maturity than did some of the other students but I don't even remember the topic comming up. If it did, I don't see the topic lasting long because most high school students (which are the ones most likley to read Huck Finn) know that there is a history to the words and that the words for the most part are part of history more than the present.

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William Joseph Vreeland


Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:14 am
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I agree with what others have said in that students reading this are likely to know that racial slurs were and still are used. It is important to explain to students that this was acceptable for that time period and is no longer acceptable and will not be tolerated, but I think its important for students to see how history has changed. Trying to keep it a secret from them doesn't help anyone or prevent students from eventually learning these things.

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Leslie Sheppard


Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:22 am
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I don't like the language, but I do agree that it was relative to the time. Students will get a different idea of that word through this book than the way that they possibly know of it today. That word was used frequently then, and not as a joke or to a buddy the way it is now. Too many people joke about that word, and I don't agree with that. But one of the reasons they are joking about it is because they don't know how derogatory it used to be. They just know the context its used in now because they have been told they can't read that book and others like it.

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Megan Wright


Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:31 pm
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