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The power of a word

January 5, 2011

I came across this story today several times, on both my Facebook page and my Twitter feed.  It reports that a new edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will be changed, eliminating Twain’s controversial use of the word “nigger” and the appellation “Injun” (as in Injun Joe).  I hesitate to include these words in this blog post, because I do find them offensive and can’t imagine using them outside a discussion such as this.  As offensive as these words are to today’s audience, I find changing Twain’s words equally offensive. 

The timing of this article is personally coincidental – my 7th grade son just finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for his independent reading project.  He picked the book out himself while at Barnes & Noble with my husband.  We were both a little surprised at the choice, but we thought it was a great book for him to read.  While he was working on his PowerPoint presentation of the book, we talked about the above article.  It was a really great discussion.

The argument for these changes is that it will make the book more palatable to those who object to these words – indeed, the new edition may be a good option for someone who absolutely will not/cannot read the original.  But editing these words out of books, challenging or banning them from library shelves and classrooms, doesn’t lessen their offensive nature.  It just gives the words more power.

“Billboard for Banned Books Week.”  Digital image.  Behance Network.  Web.  4 Jan. 2011.

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