Why is Huckleberry Finn banned in schools?

“Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” a book written by Mark Twain, is a famous American story. But, some schools in the U.S. don’t let students read it. Even though it is an important book, some people don’t like how it talks about race and uses bad language. Here’s why:

  1. Bad Language: The book uses a word that is very insulting to Black people. It’s used over 200 times in the story. Even though the word was more common when the book was written, many people find it offensive today. Some schools think it’s too offensive for students to read.
  2. How it Talks About Race: The story is set before the Civil War when slavery was legal in the South. The book shows Black people as slaves and being treated badly. Even though this was true at the time, some people worry that it shows Black people in a bad way.
  3. Hard Topics: “Huckleberry Finn” talks about hard things like racism, child abuse, right and wrong, and people being two-faced. These topics can be hard for students to understand. If teachers don’t explain them well, students might get the wrong idea.
  4. What was Twain Thinking? People can’t agree on what Mark Twain was trying to say. Some people think he was trying to show that racism is wrong. Others think he was just using stereotypes about Black people. This confusion makes some schools unsure if they should use the book.
  5. Is it Right for Kids? Twain’s writing can be hard to understand, especially for kids. Some people worry that students might not understand what Twain was trying to say and get the wrong idea about the book’s message.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (SeaWolf Press Illustrated Classic): First Edition Cover

Mark Twain’s iconic novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has been a subject of debate since its release in 1884, due to its use of explicit language. It’s among the most contested books in the U.S., first getting banned in 1885 by the Concord Public Library for coarse language, and later, in 1905 by the Brooklyn Public Library for using casual terms for bodily functions. However, the current controversy revolves around its frequent use of racial slurs, which weren’t initially as controversial. Twain defended his choice of language, arguing that censoring his work was akin to restricting an adult’s food choice because a baby couldn’t consume the same.

While we’ve covered some major reasons why “Huckleberry Finn” is sometimes banned in schools, there are still more aspects that can be addressed in the debate around the book. These aspects include:

  1. Alternative Viewpoints: It’s worth noting that there are educators and scholars who believe that despite its controversial aspects, “Huckleberry Finn” remains an important educational tool. They argue that it presents an opportunity for meaningful discussions about the racial history of the United States, which is crucial for students to understand. Furthermore, they claim that Twain’s novel critiques the racist attitudes of its time rather than endorsing them.
  2. Censorship and Literature: The debate over “Huckleberry Finn” fits into a broader conversation about censorship in literature. Should controversial or offensive elements lead to a book being banned? Does banning a book infringe on freedom of speech or artistic expression? And is it better for students to encounter controversial ideas in the safe, guided environment of a classroom rather than on their own?
  3. Revised Editions: Another angle of the debate is the emergence of revised editions of “Huckleberry Finn,” which remove or replace the offending racial slurs. Some people argue that these versions make the novel more accessible and less offensive, while others claim that altering the text is a form of censorship and can diminish the historical accuracy and impact of the novel.
  4. Context and Teaching Method: Depending on the context and the way the novel is taught, the experience of reading “Huckleberry Finn” can differ significantly. Some educators argue that the book can be a powerful teaching tool if handled properly. On the other hand, if the context of the book’s controversial elements isn’t adequately explained, students may come away with a misunderstanding of the novel’s themes and historical context.
  5. Student Voices: An often overlooked perspective in this debate is that of the students themselves. What do they think about reading “Huckleberry Finn” in school? How do they react to its controversial elements? Their responses can provide valuable insights into how the novel is perceived by young readers in today’s world.

In the end, “Huckleberry Finn” is a classic book, but it also has parts that can upset people. It uses language that many find offensive, it deals with tough topics, and it can be hard for students to understand. That’s why some schools decide not to use it. But, it’s important to remember that books can help us think and learn about different times and ideas. So, whether a school should use “Huckleberry Finn” is a tough decision that needs careful thought.

You can read the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain online thanks to Project Gutenberg. Or you can grab it on Amazon for a paperback.

About the author

Tom Henry

I worked as a PM in video games, now I'm trying some new things.