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Starting Huckleberry Finn!

boonster 2 / 10  
Feb 19, 2009   #1
I selected this topic:

Twain's book has for years been among the most frequently banned books in America." What is particularly offensive in this book? What is the function of this offensiveness? What does this offensiveness reveal?

and all I've got writen after stareing at it is

Mark Twain's book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been considered an offensive book to the critical point of it being banned. A constant reminder that Mark Twain reveals is that racism in society is a problem and must be resolved. Racism is a key factor in what separates society from intertwining and the feeling of isolation towards the "different" race.

I'm not sure what a clear thesis statement would sound like for this... This is my first time selecting a topic that asks such a strange question.

What I had in mind would be (for the thesis) would how M.T. suggests racism is the reason society faulters but thats it...

Any help would be appreciated ^^

Thank you,

EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 19, 2009   #2
I don't think the book was banned because it criticized racism (though it does do that). However, the book also portrays American society in the 1800s fairly realistically in many respects, which includes showing racist attitudes that are held even by many of the good characters in the novel. For instance, Huck repeatedly refers to the black people he knows as niggers, as in "By and by they fetched the niggers in and had prayers," something that could easily be offensive, especially to black children reading the book without knowing its historical context. Likewise, Jim is often portrayed as ignorant and superstitious, a condition for which he is not to blame but that could still easily be taken as racist portrayal of him.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that a lot of Huck Finn is satire. It criticizes the institution of slavery and the evils of racism, but it does so by portraying that racism very realistically, through the eyes of child who doesn't know any better than to accept what society has taught him. A critical, thoughtful reader will see the satire, and realize when the attitudes described are being mocked, but a careless or uneducated reader could easily view the book as defending or promulgating those attitudes. That in turn, is likely to offend the reader.

Satire often has this problem. I once taught a class in which the students read "A Modest Proposal." Every single one of them was disgusted by the fact that Swift was seriously suggesting infantiphagia as an solution to poverty! Of course, the whole point is that Swift isn't being serious, but if you don't get the irony, you are likely to be greatly offended.

Hope this helps.
OP boonster 2 / 10  
Feb 20, 2009   #3
Thank you very much Sean.
Forgot to thank you in advance yesterday.

The only thing I'm still trying to realize is that even though slavery and radical racism has been delt with to some extent from the past... how does it still affect the minds of todays society...?

I'm not sure if that made any sense at all... I guess what I'm trying to say is how does a book that had problems over 100 years ago still affect today? Society has come a long way (Blacks can vote to Obama being president)

I'll try to think of rewording it in a bit... Just caught a cold so I'm going to relax for a bit.

Thanks in advance and thank you
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 20, 2009   #4
The problem of race in America is so enduring because of the legacy of slavery. Blacks start out primarily as slaves, especially in the South. They are freed after the Civil War. However, they are not freed on principle. On the contrary, the man who frees them, Abraham Lincoln, is convinced that blacks are inferior to whites, and probably shouldn't be allowed to govern themselves. He frees them mainly to punish the Southern states for their attempt at secession, hoping to break their economic system so badly they will never again be able to try to break away from the Union. This leaves the blacks technically free, but with no land, education, or capital of any sort. They are despised in the South, and widely held in contempt in the North. Racist laws are passed that ensure blacks, especially in South, will not be able to work their way out of their second class status no matter how hard they try. Though the North is much better in this regard, racist attitudes there operate to have much the same effect as the South's Jim Crow laws. This lasts for a hundred years, almost exactly, before Martin Luther King Jr's civil rights campaign succeeds in putting an end to legalized racism. However, the black population continues to suffer from endemic levels of poverty and low education. Poverty, of course, breeds crime. Blacks living in inner city ghettos therefore tend to be overrepresented in the criminal system. Whites living in nearby areas begin to associate blacks with violence and crime. So too do many blacks. This problem is made worse by the fact that a black counter-culture arises that explicitly rejects middle class values. These are the values that allow people to succeed economically and socially. So, the white middle class is unaffected, but the poor black communities become mired in a never-ending cycle of poverty. There are exceptions to the rule, though. Some blacks do become successful, and these begin to form a black middle-class whose members are often view as not being really black by inner city blacks, who have defined their identity in the most negative possible terms.

This brings us pretty much up to where America stands now. Blacks can and do vote in American elections. Obama is black, and comes from a low-income background. But he is in fact only half-black, and not descended in any way from African slaves. His values are those of a Harvard-educated liberal, and as such are not particularly "black." While the black community naturally supports and welcomes the election of a black president, it does not by-and-large view his election as solving any of its problems or addressing any of its grievances. A great many blacks in America still believe that racism holds them back, and that they are still suffering from the legacy of slavery. This is entirely reasonable.

The white population, in the mean time, does not by and large think of themselves in racial terms, because they don't have to. The vast majority of whites in America do not actively engage in racism, and would claim, quite honestly, that race does not consciously factor into their decisions about who to hire, who to be friends with, etc. They often resent being made to feel guilty for something previous generations did, and cannot understand why the black community continues to present itself as a victim in an Obama era. They believe in the concept of merit, regardless of race, and ask themselves, entirely reasonably, why blacks can't just accept that America has become what they wanted it to be, which, from a white perspective, it more or less has.

So, racial issues are alive and well in America today, and Huck Finn is a great book that explores the roots of those issues. You might ask yourself if any of the ways in which the characters overcome their racial differences might be useful methods of tackling today's racial issues.
OP boonster 2 / 10  
Feb 21, 2009   #5
Once again, Thank you Sean for answering my question with great detail.
At the moment, I don't really have any more questions but if I do, I will post a message here again.

Just a quick question towards my topic.
Would it make sense if I mentioned about Huck trying to be civilized by the old widow? Or would that be steering off course of my topic?

Thank you!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,335 129  
Feb 21, 2009   #6
Only if you can tie it into the main theme!!! This has to do with SHARPENING the main theme, and reinforcing it a little, here and there, throughout the essay.Good luck!!!!
OP boonster 2 / 10  
Feb 21, 2009   #7
Tieing sounds really hard..
Would it be something like...
Even though the widow tries to civilize Huck, racism isn't a factor thats considered being "civilized" or not?

And thank you Kevin!

Does this sound like a thesis at all?

Mark Twain suggests that racism has to be presented as direct as possible in order for young people to learn and understand the differences in order to persue today's racial issues.
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 21, 2009   #8
You could also look at what the widow means by "civilize." Being "civilized" in that sense seems to involving giving up a lot of personal freedom, as well as making a decision to accept many of the social norms promulgated by grown-ups. Perhaps this is not such a good thing in a racist society?
OP boonster 2 / 10  
Feb 22, 2009   #9
Ok I finished!
Thank you very much Sean for your help!
EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Feb 22, 2009   #10
No problem. If you have some time left before handing in your essay, feel free to post a draft here for more feedback.
yatinu - / 1  
Dec 17, 2017   #11

How do the symbols in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reveal theme?

I'm stuck on a thesis for an essay I have to write on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

This is the thesis prompt:

Show how the author's use of symbolism reveals theme OR reinforces aspects of character.

If anyone could give suggestions of what three different symbols in the book are and how they reveal theme or reinforce aspects of character, that would be great.

Holt - / 7,527 2001  
Dec 18, 2017   #12
You can actually have your choice of symbolism and moderately thorough explanations of the symbolism and its importance by doing a simple Google search using the exact keywords that you typed here. I found a number of them that may be helpful to you in making your decision as to which of these to discuss in your essay. You can do search words using the Mississippi River, The Widow Douglas, and Huck Finn himself. For that you can look up the explanations over at brightthehubeducation.com or information from shmoop.com and sparknotes. All of these sites can help you not just in choosing the 3 symbolism images for the essay, but they also offer clear explanations to help you understand why that is so. That way, you can easily develop your original essay based on accurate discussions and explanations from others.

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