The most controversial aspect of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the use of the word “niggger” throughout the novel. Appearing in the novel 219 times (“Huckleberry Finn” and the N-word Debate), the word “nigger”, a word so offensive it is often referred to as the “N” word, is viewed as a derogatory term in Twain’s novel. However, the way in which Twain uses the word simply reflects on the times when cruel, unjust, and less than humanly treatment of African Americans was not uncommon. An example of this is presented when Aunt Sally asks what kept Huckleberry Finn so long, and he tells her about a supposed steamboat explosion, and when Huckleberry says that a nigger was killed, Aunt Sally’s response is “Well, it’s lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt” (Twain 197). Aside from the offensiveness some readers take from the presence of the “N” word in the novel, but similarly, the controversy is also surrounded by the fact that seeing and hearing the “N” word when The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is taught in the classroom can make students and even teachers uncomfortable (Defending The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, and American History from the Politics of the Left). However, it has been said that if the novel did not make readers uncomfortable, then the message Twain wanted to convey about the cruel attitude of society in the 1800s would otherwise be defeated. An example of a piece of dialogue in the novel that could make students or teachers feel this way could include when Huckleberry say “why, he was my nigger, and that was my money. Where is he-I want my nigger” (193). Not only can the presence of the word “nigger” cause discomfort, but the attitude that Jim is Huckleberry’s “nigger”, and thus Jim is inferior to Huckleberry, can also cause students and teachers to be further uncomfortable, another aspect in the controversy.
Although it was common for African American people to be treated less than humanly during this period, the way in which Twain’s characters discuss African Americans as though they are property is also a part of why Twain’s novel is so controversial. Huckleberry most evidently expresses the cruelty and injustice of the South in the 1800s, but is unaware that his upbringing causes him to take the wrong attitude towards African Americans, and thus, is at first unsure how to treat Jim. Huck plays tricks on Jim and ensnares him in dialogue that makes him seem foolish; the trick that most heavily weighed on both Huck and Jim was when Huck disappeared from the raft, and when he returned, told Jim he had been there the entire time. Although Huck regretted playing the trick on Jim, its occurrence displays the inferiority Caucasian people felt towards African Americans in the 1800s. Twain makes this idea of inferiority evident through Huck’s dialogue with Jim, as Huck asks Jim if he has been drinking because of how wildly he claims Jim is talking and then crudely tells Jim his opinion, saying “Well, I think you’re here, plain enough, but I think you're a tangle-headed old fool, Jim” (76). It is also evident that African Americans were inferior to Caucasian people in that of their living conditions, like the type of “housing” they lived in and the way in which they got their food. When Tom told Huckleberry he thought he an idea as to where Silas was keeping Jim, Twain described a small plantation that was being kept locked in which a “nigger” had previously brought food to, which it can be assumed that Tom assumed Jim was being kept at the