Rather than allowing the scene to solidify a stereotype, the author of this book proposes that readers should, assuming they are understand the true voice of the novel Huck Finn, allow the scene to alter the stereotype of Jim as a servant to the Caucasian man. Readers should, according to the author, instead see that Jim, as a free man, acts no differently not because he is bound to the Caucasian man, but because he is a noble character. This argument would greatly enhance the point of a paper whose main theme was that Hick Finn was more about freedom and dignity than about race relations.
Davis, Thadious, M., Leonard, James, S., and Tenney, Thomas, a. "Introduction: The Controversy over Huckleberry Finn." Satire or Evasion?: Black Perspectives on Huckleberry Finn. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1992: 1-13.
This chapter discusses many important arguments both for and against the novel the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In one argument in particular, on pages 6 through 8, the authors discuss the use of language throughout the novel as a way to show Caucasian men as ignorant and malicious. According to the authors, the "racist" language used in Huck Finn is used not to imply racist attitude, but instead to be an ironic twist against the racism in society at the time. The authors argue that, through the language of the characters, the "racist" concepts only help to show the ignorance and maliciousness of the Caucasian man. The word "nigger" is not used in the novel against the African-Americans, according to the authors, but instead as a show of the racial ignorance of the Caucasians. The authors display this with two main examples, those of the doctor's condescending nature towards Jim, and the King of Duke and Pap Finn's vile and brutal treatment of Jim. The authors note that, through the dialog of the doctor, Twain is showing that the racist nature, while somewhat subdued, is present even in the highest of society. Further, the authors note that, by first describing Pap as drunken, slobbish, vile and disgusting, Pap's later discussion of the government allowing African-Americans to walk around freely in fine clothes simply displays his warped view of reality. Twain is not agreeing with or encouraging racism, but rather, is showing how ignorant the Caucasian character of Pap truly is.
This particular argument would be effective in discussing how the literary use of racist terms in Huck Finn actually serves to show how ignorant racism was in Twain's time. If examined through a literary approach, the language clearly shows how Twain felt about racism, and how he attempted to show racism as a trait of vile and disturbed men. By utilizing the argument presented by the authors, it would be possible to more clearly illustrate this concept.
Mensh, Elaine, and Mensh, Harry. "Shallows, Depths, and Crosscurrents." Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-imagining the American Dream. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2000: 46-57.
This chapter discusses in detail many of the arguments presented by critics who would like to see the novel Huck Finn banned from reading lists in school systems. For example, the author discusses the way in which Twain portrays life on the raft. Critics have said, more than once, that Twain's depiction of Jim and Huck on the raft shows Huck's lack of care for Jim, in that he is taking Jim south, and further into slave territory, rather than simply pushing him north to freedom. However, Mensh notes that the description of the two men's relationship actually defines, perhaps better than anything in the novel, the entire point of the book. Once that men are away from civilization, the author notes, they behave as equals. There is no discussion of their living arrangement as being "wrong," with an African-American and a Caucasian sharing their lives, simply because in the raft, it isn't wrong. Twain is attempting to show that it is the presence of society, and the opinions of society that dictate the Caucasian man's feelings towards African-Americans. As they shed their clothes, there is no notice of the color difference, because on the raft, there is no difference. The author again is trying to show racism as a disease of society, not of man. The author notes that, in the limited knowledge of Huck, there is a reason for his southern travel. Huck would have no knowledge of the Ohio River leading north, but would have knowledge of the Mississippi river south. Huck, in his boyhood innocence, is simply acting on what he knows.
This portion of the book would greatly enhance a discussion of the mistakenly understood portions of Huck Finn. While Twain was attempting to show very clear ideas, those readers looking to find racism can easily misinterpret Twain's remarks. It is only through careful reading and discussion of the novel that readers can see Twain's true intentions. In this light, it makes perfect sense to teach it within a classroom, where an experienced instructor can help guide his or her students to understanding.
Schmidt, Peter. "Seven Recent Commentaries on Mark Twain."
Studies in the Novel 34.4 (2002): 448-455.
This article discusses seven commentaries by other authors about Mark Twain, and shows a detailed comparison of those author's opinions. Of particular interest are the comparisons of those author's viewpoints on racism in the novel. Schmidt points out that, in all seven commentaries, each author notes that Twain is using the language as a tool to show how racist the community in general appears to be. This note is true in all commentaries, including those that are critical of the book. For example, many of the authors noted that, as Huck Finn became more "educated" in life, even his language began to change in relation to Jim. This shows, according to the article, that when the language is taken in its intended literary form, it ceases to be racist and simply becomes a tool of the writer.
Further, this article discusses the seven author's opinions about the stereotypical representations of Jim in the novel. Many of the authors note that, in reality, Twain avoided writing many of the stereotypes that existed about African-Americans at the time. Additionally, the authors note Twain's descriptions of many of the Caucasians in the novel are far more degrading than those of the African-Americans in the book, further displaying Twain's attempt to combat racism in an indirect way.
This comparison article would be useful, in that it presents a wide variety of opinions about the book, all of which vary drastically in their content. Yet all authors note that the way in which Twain attempts to convey his opinion of racism is an honest one, albeit not necessarily effective. While Twain may have indirectly stereotyped African-Americans in the novel, he did so not as a testament to the idea that…