There has been a bit of controversy in the publishing world with the announcement that NewSouth Books is issuing a new version of Huckleberry Finn that replaces the “N-word” (NEBRASKA) with the word “Slave.” Note: for the sake of our more offendable readers, the word “Nigger” has been replaced with “Nebraska” in this article. Literary purists are up in arms about this attempt to sanitize an American classic, pointing out that it is Twain’s capturing of the authentic language and social morays of the time which makes the book such an impassioned indictment of the evils of the previous century.
But does literature really have the right to be upsetting? I say the new text does not go far enough! For the period of slavery itself is humiliating to black people, and shameful for all Americans. I propose a version of Huck Finn wherein Jim is finally treated as an equal and a friend to Huck, not some runaway “slave.” Read this excerpt from Huck Finn, and see how, with some key alterations of the text, we can finally achieve equality in our great works of literature:
Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be an EQUAL at home where his family was, as long as he's got to be an EQUAL, and so I'd better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion, for two things: she'd be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she'd GIVE HIM A TICKET ON A BOATRIDE straight down the river again; and if she didn't, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful FRIEND OF MINE, and they'd make Jim feel it all the time, and so he'd feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of me! It would get all around, that Huck Finn helped a FRIEND OF MINE to get his freedom (WHICH HE ALREADY HAD, BECAUSE WE ARE ALREADY FREE AND EQUAL); and if I was to ever see anybody from that town again, I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame….And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was ENCOURAGING a poor old woman's FRIEND OF MINE NOT TO HANG OUT WITH HER ANYMORE that hadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the lookout, and ain't agoing to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself, by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, "There was the Sunday school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a learnt you, there, that people that acts as I'd been acting about that FRIEND OF MINE goes to everlasting fire."
Coming next: An animal cruelty free version of Moby Dick!