Essay on Racism Within Huck Finn

Submitted By sunnye123
Words: 1679
Pages: 7

Mark Twain is a very popular writer, widely known for one of his books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This story is very controversial when dealing with the subject of race. Some argue this book is a beautiful portrayal of what is wrong with society and how it needs to change; on the other hand, some say this book is a scattered story with a poorly written underlying meaning to it. These conclusions will have significant applications in whether or not this book sends the right message, and if this book should be read in classrooms, or be replaced with a superior novel.
According to a women named Dr. Shelly Fisher Fishkin, many people who read his work tend to think Twain is a racist; when in reality, he is using Socratic irony to portray issues in society. Anyone familiar with Dr. Fishkin would say that, “Huck is too innocent and ignorant to understand what is wrong with his society…” (Fishkin 1). This points out the fact that Twain is using the ignorance of Huck in order to depict what is wrong with humanity. As Dr. Fishkin points out, “Samuel Clemens had come to believe not only that slavery was a horrendous wrong, but that white Americans owed black Americans some form of ‘reparations’ for it” (Fishkin 1). Twain saying this shows not only is he not a racist, but he feels for African Americans and what they have been through. Fishkin says Twain uses Huck’s ignorance to show how poorly black people have been treated and how the color of skin does not change who we are or who we can be, making it a contentious subject of discussion. Twain’s book, Huck Finn, is a very controversial topic when it comes to whether or not it should be read in classrooms. Some argue that Huck Finn is not a good book to teach in the classroom due to its racial remarks. Dr. Fishkin, however, believes this book is a necessary part of high school education. Fishkin argues, “[it] is a book that puts on the table the very questions the culture so often tries to bury, a book that opens out into the complex history that shaped it…” (Fishkin 2). Fishkin believes that this book is a story that forces us to talk about a topic which most of us tend to avoid, racism. It reveals the elephant in the room, and makes those reading it think about racial problems in their society. Fishkin also believes this book reveals the banality of evil, when she says, “…it was not the villains who made the system work but the ordinary folks, the good folks, the folks, who did nothing more than fail to question the set of circumstances that surround them, who failed to judge that evil as evil who deluded themselves into thinking they were doing good, earning safe passage for themselves to heaven…” (ibid). Fishkin shows us how the problems in our society are still existent because of those who do not stand up to defeat it. Dr. Fishkin has some notable reasons as to why this book is a good read for high school students. In contrast to Dr. Fishkin, a woman by the name of Jane Smiley believes that Huck Finn is a failure of a book. Smiley, who believes this book should not be taught in classrooms, is the author of eight novels and won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Smiley argues, “[it] is with the feud that the novel begins to fail, because from here on the episodes are mere distractions from the true subject of the work: Huck’s affection for and responsibility to Jim” (Smiley 2). Smiley’s central insight is that in the process of writing this novel, Twain got off topic of what he first intended to do. This book started out as a fun, adventurous sequel to the book, Tom Sawyer. Later in the novel, she says Twain put himself in a tough position, realizing his book was forming a more serious message than originally intended. Smiley says, “[n]either Huck nor Twain has come up with a plan that would have saved Jim in the end. Tom Sawyer does that” (ibid). Smiley is saying that Twain is to blame for the letdown of this story because he did not come up with the plan or