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Prejudice and Racism in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Prejudice and Racism in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Despite all the criticism, of racism and other questionable material for young readers, Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn is a superbly written novel, which in the opinion of this reviewer should not be remove the literary cannon. Twain’s novel is a coming of age story that teaches young people many valuable lessons and to some extend makes students reexamine their own lives and morals. The most common argument for its removal from the literary canon is that the novel is too racist; it offends black readers, perpetuates cheap slave-era stereotypes, and deserves no place on today’s bookshelves. However one must ask if Twain is encouraging traditional southern racism or is Twain disputing these idea.

On a superficial level The Adventures Huckleberry Finn might appear to be racist, and for the most obvious reason: many characters use the word “nigger” throughout the novel. But since the action of the book takes place in the south twenty years before the Civil War, it would be amazing if they didn’t use that word. A closer reading also reveals Twain’s serious satiric intent. In one scene, for instance, Aunt Sally hears of a steamboat explosion. “Good gracious! anybody hurt?” she asks. “No’m,” comes the answer. “Killed a nigger” (Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn 1409). But anyone who imagines that Mark Twain meant this literally is missing the point. Rather, Twain is using this casual dialogue ironically, as a way to underscore the chilling truth about the old south, that it was a society where perfectly “nice” people didn’t consider the death of a black person worth their notice. To drive the point home, Twain has the lady continue: “We…

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…e end of the novel, Huck and the reader have come to understand that Jim is not someone’s property or an inferior man, but an equal. To say that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a racist novel is absurd, but there are always some hot-heads claiming that the novel is racist. These claims are not simply attempts to damage the image of a great novel, they come from people who are hurt by racism and don’t like seeing it in any context. However, they must realize that this novel and its author are not racist, and the purpose of the story is to prove black equality. It is vital for the reader to recognize these ideas as society’s and to recognize that Twain throughout the novel does encourage racist ideas, he disputes them. For this reason, and its profound moral implication, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should not be removed from the literary canon. [1056]

Essay on Adam’s Curse – Everyone’s Fate, Everyone’s Tragedy

Adam’s Curse – Everyone’s Fate, Everyone’s Tragedy

The allusion to the biblical story of Adam and Eve in William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Adam’s Curse,” reflects the poem’s pessimistic theme: the tragic nature of fate. In the story, Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, had defied God, and consequently, were thrown out of paradise. Their punishment (and as their descendents, everyone’s punishment and “fate”) was to feel the joys and the pains of being human, including love and happiness but work and disappointment as well. Yeats parallels this tragedy of Adam and Eve’s newly-found mortality with a narrative which is composed mostly of a conversation about the hardships of writing poetry, being beautiful, and staying in love. By linking the two stories, he implies that such endeavors are not only laborious aspects of life, but can be “destined” to end or fail also. Yeats further establishes the inevitability of something ending by setting the conversation “at one summer’s end” (1) and later having the speakers see “the last embers of daylight die” (29) when the conversation itself dies.

Before the conversation dies, however, Yeats’ persona begins the talk with the subject of poetry. What is interesting is that they are not composing lines together, but are discussing the end results of poems’ lines. According to the persona, the process of creating poetry, including the hours spent in writing and rewriting the lines, or as Yeats states it, “stitching and unstitching” (6), ultimately will be insignificant if the lines are unsuccessful. Although he regards the act of writing poetry as more difficult than physical labor, he would rather “scrub a kitchen pavement” (8) or do other labor-intensive, yet demeaning jobs, than cr…

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…s despair in accepting that his and his lover’s fate was to grow “As weary-hearted as that hollow moon” (38). The fact that this line, and not a happy, upbeat ending, closes the poem further emphasizes the tragedy.

Yeats’ somber turn towards the end of the poem is also indicative of what makes fate sometimes tragic: its unpredictability. Similar to the way Adam was unaware of the consequences of eating the forbidden apple, a poet does not know how good, or bad, a poem will be until it is finished. Similar to the fleeting notion of beauty, love can easily fade. The fact that all these endeavors could be rewarding makes the sudden loss an unbearable, and therefore, “tragic” fate.

Work Cited

Yeats, William Butler. “Adam’s Curse.” Western Wind. 4th ed. Ed. John Frederick Nims and David Mason. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2000. 431-32.

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