Jude Collins

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Mark Twain and the literary thugs

OK, that’s it. I never thought I’d live to hear the cliché slither from my lips but the occasion calls for it: this is political correctness gone mad.  What is? The new edition of Mark Twain’s wonderful novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that’s what.  In it, the word ‘nigger’  occurs over a hundred times, and in the new edition it won't occur at all. It'll be removed. That’s because the word is considered an insulting and racist term. 

So it is, when used by white people. But this is a classic case of the present day projecting its moral standards onto a past age which had markedly different ones. Of course the term ‘nigger’ used today is largely the preserve of  racist morons so insecure in their own identity, they feel the need to stand on the face of another ethnic grouping. But we don’t show our non-racist credentials by getting annoyed with a previous age because they used it. You might as well get annoyed with a previous age because they drank beer instead of bottled water or wore tights instead of trousers.

Except that this is worse. Here we have a work of art – a novel that holds a major place in the history of American fiction – and some one-eyed we-know-betters have taken it on themselves to change it.  What next?  Some dandified art critic deciding Mona Lisa’s smile is too wishy-washy and adding a set of grinning teeth? Some music critic deciding ‘O Holy Night’  is a bit dreary and adding a last verse to the tune of ‘The Ragtime Strutters’ Ball’?  Or maybe an announcement that the history of slavery in America will be discontinued because it really wasn’t very nice?

The sad, sickly argument some advance for this barbaric piece of  word-censoring is that it’ll make it easier for teachers to teach the text. Forget it, guys. If they’re not capable of teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as it is,  they’re  not capable of teaching .The past is the past; we should respect it and respect writers like Twain by keeping our grubby little hands off their work. 
We had Church-inspired censorship in Ireland for too long.  Are we now going to show how liberated we are by bowing before the bone-brained priests of political correctness? 

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