The announcement made last week that Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is to be published in a new version that removes the “N” word is a radical departure from the thought of textual purists and from academic tradition, but Twain scholar Alan Gribben insists his decision to revoke the word from the book is not an attempt to erase racial issues, but rather an effort to bring the book, which has long been disappearing from grade school curricula, back into the hands of children and a general readers reluctant to read the book as it stands.
Although this decision may cause controversy in some circles, Gribben, who has headed the English department at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama for nearly 20 years, was sought out by teachers during talks he gave around the state on Twain’s other classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The teachers told him they wanted to teach Twain’s novels in class but felt inhibited by the offensive word. They deemed the book unacceptable for the 21st century classroom.
Gribben, who often replaced the word with “slave” himself when reading the book aloud, agreed that there should be an alternative for grade school students, so he teamed up with publisher NewSouth to create that option. The new edition due out in February will also include Tom Sawyer in the volume. What it won’t have is the 219 times the “N” word appeared in the original text.
What do you think? Should an American classic never be altered for any reason? Does the new version change the author’s intent? Or is this a long overdue and necessary change to an extremely offensive and incredibly hurtful word?