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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



JesseBC wrote:
I'm confused -- are you saying Huck Finn should be read at face value because there is no universal message and, therefore, those who would ban the book over the word "**bleep**" are reading the novel pretty much as it was intended?





I agree with the first characterization: yes, finding the universal message of friendship and harmony in a novel so thoroughly marinated in the local idioms of white supremacy is a real challenge. The changes in the plot that Twain made, and the liberal use of racial stereotype in these early chapters are certainly major obstacles. As to the way the author intended, let me be a little more sneaky and snaky: while Twain tried his very best to defeat the racist demons of his own past, he did not want to sugar coat the obstacles to racial and sectional reconciliation that everyone was eager to effect after the Civil War. To this end, he wants the word to catch in our throats and gag us with the difference of people, the uniqueness of local tastes and manners. He's not endorsing the view of those who would freely use the word, but he does mean to faithfully recreate their way of thinking and life without trying to patronize them. So Jesse, I'm not sure I answered your second question as directly as you would like.
Bob
jd
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jd
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



fanuzzir wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
I'm confused -- are you saying Huck Finn should be read at face value because there is no universal message and, therefore, those who would ban the book over the word "**bleep**" are reading the novel pretty much as it was intended?





I agree with the first characterization: yes, finding the universal message of friendship and harmony in a novel so thoroughly marinated in the local idioms of white supremacy is a real challenge. The changes in the plot that Twain made, and the liberal use of racial stereotype in these early chapters are certainly major obstacles. As to the way the author intended, let me be a little more sneaky and snaky: while Twain tried his very best to defeat the racist demons of his own past, he did not want to sugar coat the obstacles to racial and sectional reconciliation that everyone was eager to effect after the Civil War. To this end, he wants the word to catch in our throats and gag us with the difference of people, the uniqueness of local tastes and manners. He's not endorsing the view of those who would freely use the word, but he does mean to faithfully recreate their way of thinking and life without trying to patronize them. So Jesse, I'm not sure I answered your second question as directly as you would like.
Bob





If Twain bothered to repeat the dialect of the old south so carefully, wouldn't the N-word be used much as he has portrayed in the book? Also, as offensive as the word is currently, at one time it was an inaccurate term for those from Niger and Nigeria in Africa and thus all Blacks by default. It is currently offensive but is still used with affection by Blacks and only not tolerated when used by a non-Blacks. Is it even remotely possible that Twain used it so freely trying to desensitize its' exagerated importance as a word and to worry more about the treatment of people as opposed to what they were called ? -jd
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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

There is no doubt that Huck and his contemporaries used the word as a derogatory word. Huck himself expresses contempt for "Miss Watson's n****" in the second chapter, the first of many tricks he plays on his future best friend. In the context of this novel, it seems to have been used as a "handle" to express the availability of one person for the purposes of another.
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JesseBC
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Re: children

Sure, it's a broad subject. But, for our purposes, I don't think we need to break it down and debate each possible subpoint.

There's unlikely to be any disagreement over the idea that we in the 21st century view the proper role of children in society and proper childrearing differently than they did in the late 19th century.

And there's probably not going to be any disagreement with the idea that we in the 21st century believe we are right about children (or at least MORE right) and they were wrong in the late 19th century.

Now, you and I might quibble over whether we really ARE more right today than they were then, at least in the ruffles and fringes of it. (And, yes, I've been called cynical many times. Though I don't understand why everyone says that like it's a BAD thing :-)

But I don't think we need to quibble over those details. I just think, when reading books from the late 19th century, we at least need to be willing to suspend things like our modern beliefs about children and our certainty about those beliefs.

Otherwise, we're just approaching these novels like a bunch of 21st century imperialists, intent on forcing our own orthodoxy into the story even if it doesn't make any sense. (In a way, I'm surprised the book has never been banned because it portrays the child protagonist smoking! Hasn't Rob Reiner ever read this book?!?)

The point shouldn't be whether we today would pity Huck as a victim of child neglect. The point is what meaning that would have had in 1884.

I don't think we can really hope to understand Huck Finn unless we're at least willing to entertain the idea that the way they viewed children in 1884 might have made some sense, if only at the time.





ziki wrote:


JesseBC wrote:I'm just saying that, for example, children are viewed differently today than they were in the late 19th century. And we tend to assume that our beliefs about children are right today and they were wrong a hundred years ago. We view children now as more fragile psychologically, more influenced by adults, and less capable of taking care of themselves.

If Huck were a kid today, he'd be placed in foster care, shuttled to therapy twice a week, prescribed large doses of anti-depressants and speed, while adults would be fretting over the damage done to his "self-esteem" and hoping to get him into a support group for children of alcoholics.




This is a huge topic you embark on. It is interesting to study how children were viewed and treated throughout history (i.e. one can take paintings as a media). It doesn't take long to discover i.e. that child labor was a necessity and a psychological health a 'luxury'. Even in wealthy families and at courts children weren't necessarily treated well so it isn't a matter of money.

If I go on a limb with it I'd say this may also be one of the reasons why humanity is in a mess today, much of the dysfunction is inherited from generation to generation.

I disagree with the statement that we view children as psychologically fragile today but maybe there's at least a tendency to view them as valid members of society not just a nuisance. But the pendulum is now swinging in the opposite direction when children are not included in society from the start in a natural way and that creates other kind of problems.

http://www.continuum-concept.org/

To talk about this topic with any measure of success the debate needs to be very nuanced. The summary you make about how we treat children in troubled situations is cynical and very general and we need to avoid the melee of half truths. I agree with you that Ritalin is prescribed far too often as a convenience while instead one should treat the adults who are the origins of the problem. The child is often just a carrier and amplifier of what is wrong in the systems. I view the plethora of diagnoses of ADHd and alike as another pointer to the fact that children who are very sensitive react to the dysfunction of the systems they are locked in and try to cope with the overload.

But to return to the books at hand:

Take the scenes from T. Sawyer where the children get regular beating from the school master. Is that a way to teach a person how to be human?

ziki


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JesseBC
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

So, let me get this straight...we're "bleeping out" the racial slur in a discussion of how obtuse it was for school districts to ban Huck Finn over the same aforementioned racial slur?

And the Europeans say we have no sense of irony!

Black people aren't stupid, folks. Tiptoeing around and whispering "the n-word" isn't fooling anybody into thinking that white people have their racial thing together.


**We now return to our regularly-scheduled discussion, pre-sanitized for your safety and convenience.**






JesseBC wrote:
I'm confused -- are you saying Huck Finn should be read at face value because there is no universal message and, therefore, those who would ban the book over the word "**bleep**" are reading the novel pretty much as it was intended?



---------fanuzzir wrote:JD, thanks for being frank about your earlier experience with the novel. I think the furor over the n word in some circles today is a healthy sign that we are reading the novel more at face value than for the supposedly universal message that we want to find underneath. If Huck does realize that Jim is his true counterpart and soul mate in life, then it is certainly against his will. At any rate, he abandon's the idea int he second half of the novel anyway, and essentially starts over. So much for brotherhood.

As to your second point: when first we meet Jim, Twain is recycling some of the stereotypes of the gullible slave from popular "plantation folklore," the most familiar to us being "Uncle Remus Tales." These fed the appetite of a national reading public for funny, touching stories about the good old days of slavery after they had spend millions of dollars and thousands of lives destroying them in the Civil War. The subsequent portrayal of Jim is very much influenced by what are called slave narratives, true stories of escape and liberation that were a staple of abolitionist rhetoric during the run-up to the Civil War and often written by escaped slaves themselves. So there you have it: two sources for Jim: one racist, the other abolitionist. You can't get much more divided.

Jim does grow by the way--you'll find he's running away for much more than his own freedom. He's the adult in the story, the true hero with something to lose.


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JesseBC
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I may understand what you're saying more when I get to the plot change you've been referring to. I've read this book before, but it's been a long time and my memory of it is spotty.

But if I understand you correctly, you're saying the book doesn't serve up the warm and fuzzy message of racial harmony that was clung to by those who countered the ban on it, right?

I guess I grant it the license of satire, which we understood even reading it as children, albeit in an unsophisticated way. I think the "warm and fuzzy message" was held up simply because adults seem to think children have a tin ear for absurdity.

(Really, I don't think Huck Finn appeals to children for any sort of message. It's just usually asssigned at the age when kids love to fondly imagine themselves as orphans having an adventure.)

A morality tale would require a literalism that satire is always dancing away from.






fanuzzir wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
I'm confused -- are you saying Huck Finn should be read at face value because there is no universal message and, therefore, those who would ban the book over the word "**bleep**" are reading the novel pretty much as it was intended?





I agree with the first characterization: yes, finding the universal message of friendship and harmony in a novel so thoroughly marinated in the local idioms of white supremacy is a real challenge. The changes in the plot that Twain made, and the liberal use of racial stereotype in these early chapters are certainly major obstacles. As to the way the author intended, let me be a little more sneaky and snaky: while Twain tried his very best to defeat the racist demons of his own past, he did not want to sugar coat the obstacles to racial and sectional reconciliation that everyone was eager to effect after the Civil War. To this end, he wants the word to catch in our throats and gag us with the difference of people, the uniqueness of local tastes and manners. He's not endorsing the view of those who would freely use the word, but he does mean to faithfully recreate their way of thinking and life without trying to patronize them. So Jesse, I'm not sure I answered your second question as directly as you would like.
Bob



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JesseBC
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

There's a concept in linguistics that the words you can and can't use have the ability to affect how you think and act. But I think that concept grew up around Freudian theories in the early 20th century and would have come later than Twain.

The idea eventually gave birth to brilliant things like Orwell's Newspeak and patently stupid things like political correctness and obssessive fussing over words that might give offense regardless of the context in which they're used.

I'd guess this goes much further towards explaining why we're restricted to the euphemistic "n-word" in this discussion than why Twain used The Word itself.






jd wrote:


fanuzzir wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
I'm confused -- are you saying Huck Finn should be read at face value because there is no universal message and, therefore, those who would ban the book over the word "**bleep**" are reading the novel pretty much as it was intended?





I agree with the first characterization: yes, finding the universal message of friendship and harmony in a novel so thoroughly marinated in the local idioms of white supremacy is a real challenge. The changes in the plot that Twain made, and the liberal use of racial stereotype in these early chapters are certainly major obstacles. As to the way the author intended, let me be a little more sneaky and snaky: while Twain tried his very best to defeat the racist demons of his own past, he did not want to sugar coat the obstacles to racial and sectional reconciliation that everyone was eager to effect after the Civil War. To this end, he wants the word to catch in our throats and gag us with the difference of people, the uniqueness of local tastes and manners. He's not endorsing the view of those who would freely use the word, but he does mean to faithfully recreate their way of thinking and life without trying to patronize them. So Jesse, I'm not sure I answered your second question as directly as you would like.
Bob





If Twain bothered to repeat the dialect of the old south so carefully, wouldn't the N-word be used much as he has portrayed in the book? Also, as offensive as the word is currently, at one time it was an inaccurate term for those from Niger and Nigeria in Africa and thus all Blacks by default. It is currently offensive but is still used with affection by Blacks and only not tolerated when used by a non-Blacks. Is it even remotely possible that Twain used it so freely trying to desensitize its' exagerated importance as a word and to worry more about the treatment of people as opposed to what they were called ? -jd


jd
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Bob - If I get your drift, the word is used by Huck in the beginning but is dropped in reference to Jim at the end, because of his feelings toward Jim. The N-word is a word used to describe a black skinned person who was a slave and thus by association an offensive word due to slavery and its awfulness?? Portugese traders used the word negro because it means black in Portugese and other latin based languages. Niger is too close to the N-word to not be related. I believe that Huck was derogatory to Jim in the beginning but is only a child and repeats what he hears without thought and in his case he has his pap to be weary of. The N-word is used less frequently by Huck in the later chapters and thus shows that Huck has reached a conclusion of his own about the N-word with all of its connotations and how he will use it toward Jim. Throw me a rope, I think this limb might be breaking :smileyhappy:-jd
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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

I would look at the end of chapter 14, where Huck shows his frustration with Jim by using the N word, and chapter 15, where he says he never had to humble himself before a n***** before. In both cases, Huck is acting as the adult in a relationship with another adult primarily because of his race. Jim is a 30 year old man with a wife and children and yet Huck the pre-teen sets himself up as his overseer of sorts. So age means alot here, though in a rather strartling way. Keep in mind that Huck uses the n word to connote his adulthood, and to establish his adulthood, as fraudelent as it may be. Using that word is like a rite of passage that shows the irony of the downriver passage--it is also Huck growing into traditional Southern manhood. Of course there are many times when Huck rejects that path. These are times that he says he has to search his conscience and be a "bad" boy again. In his mind he's going in reverse but of course as we read it, he's moving forward.
jd
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jd
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Bob wrote

fanuzzir wrote:
I would look at the end of chapter 14, where Huck shows his frustration with Jim by using the N word, and chapter 15, where he says he never had to humble himself before a n***** before. In both cases, Huck is acting as the adult in a relationship with another adult primarily because of his race. Jim is a 30 year old man with a wife and children and yet Huck the pre-teen sets himself up as his overseer of sorts. So age means alot here, though in a rather strartling way. Keep in mind that Huck uses the n word to connote his adulthood, and to establish his adulthood, as fraudelent as it may be. Using that word is like a rite of passage that shows the irony of the downriver passage--it is also Huck growing into traditional Southern manhood. Of course there are many times when Huck rejects that path. These are times that he says he has to search his conscience and be a "bad" boy again. In his mind he's going in reverse but of course as we read it, he's moving forward.




jd replied - Hmmmm - In the two instances you site both were under duress and can be interpreted as a growing up of sorts. His frustration lets him slide back into the old mode of acceptable southern behaviour and the humbling is a new experience that he takes on as a different more enlightened person. Bad boy is when he is acting as rescuer to Jim and helping him get free. Bad as contrary to the Southern cause. Boy is the younger more excusable person in each case. The good boy is the one we all are hoping makes it. Thanks for your help. - jd
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JesseBC
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4

Hmm...seems to me like this is reading too much into it.

I just finished chapter 14 and, while I suppose this belongs in the folder that includes chapter 14, the following is not a spoiler.

Jim also uses the same word in the context of just an accepted common noun when he says, "I wouldn't 'low no **bleep** to call me dat."

Granted, in self-same context, both Jim and Huck are presuming racist stereotypes. But what they're saying wouldn't be any LESS racist if they had used "black man" instead.

It's the presumptions they're operating with that are racist, not the words they're using to express those presumptions.

For that matter Huck is basically right -- Jim is being stubborn and misinterpreting (perhaps intentionally) both of the things Huck is telling him in that chapter.

But that doesn't make Huck's presumptions any less racist any more than his words make them more so.

Fourteen is a difficult and thought-provoking chapter. There's more I want to say about it, but I'll do so in the proper folder since anything else would be getting into the chapter's content too much for this folder.





fanuzzir wrote:
I would look at the end of chapter 14, where Huck shows his frustration with Jim by using the N word, and chapter 15, where he says he never had to humble himself before a n***** before. In both cases, Huck is acting as the adult in a relationship with another adult primarily because of his race. Jim is a 30 year old man with a wife and children and yet Huck the pre-teen sets himself up as his overseer of sorts. So age means alot here, though in a rather strartling way. Keep in mind that Huck uses the n word to connote his adulthood, and to establish his adulthood, as fraudelent as it may be. Using that word is like a rite of passage that shows the irony of the downriver passage--it is also Huck growing into traditional Southern manhood. Of course there are many times when Huck rejects that path. These are times that he says he has to search his conscience and be a "bad" boy again. In his mind he's going in reverse but of course as we read it, he's moving forward.


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fanuzzir
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Re: Huck as an "orphan": Chapters 1-4



JesseBC wrote:
Hmm...seems to me like this is reading too much into it.

I just finished chapter 14 and, while I suppose this belongs in the folder that includes chapter 14, the following is not a spoiler.

Jim also uses the same word in the context of just an accepted common noun when he says, "I wouldn't 'low no **bleep** to call me dat."

Granted, in self-same context, both Jim and Huck are presuming racist stereotypes. But what they're saying wouldn't be any LESS racist if they had used "black man" instead.

It's the presumptions they're operating with that are racist, not the words they're using to express those presumptions.

For that matter Huck is basically right -- Jim is being stubborn and misinterpreting (perhaps intentionally) both of the things Huck is telling him in that chapter.

But that doesn't make Huck's presumptions any less racist any more than his words make them more so.

Fourteen is a difficult and thought-provoking chapter. There's more I want to say about it, but I'll do so in the proper folder since anything else would be getting into the chapter's content too much for this folder.





fanuzzir wrote:
I would look at the end of chapter 14, where Huck shows his frustration with Jim by using the N word, and chapter 15, where he says he never had to humble himself before a n***** before. In both cases, Huck is acting as the adult in a relationship with another adult primarily because of his race. Jim is a 30 year old man with a wife and children and yet Huck the pre-teen sets himself up as his overseer of sorts. So age means alot here, though in a rather strartling way. Keep in mind that Huck uses the n word to connote his adulthood, and to establish his adulthood, as fraudelent as it may be. Using that word is like a rite of passage that shows the irony of the downriver passage--it is also Huck growing into traditional Southern manhood. Of course there are many times when Huck rejects that path. These are times that he says he has to search his conscience and be a "bad" boy again. In his mind he's going in reverse but of course as we read it, he's moving forward.





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