A new edition of Mark Twain’s legendary Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has removed all mentions of the “N” word and replaced it with “slave” so that the book will avoid being banned from some schools, Publisher’s Weekly reports. The word appears 219 times in the book. This edition will also remove the offensive “Injun” reference to Native Americans.
This came about thanks to Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who along with NewSouth Books plans to release this new edition in a single volume along with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” Gribben told PW, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.” Gribben got the idea from censoring the book aloud out of habit when he read it to students, using the word “slave” anytime he came across the offensive words.
When the news hit the Twitterverse, the reactions were decidedly against Mr. Gribben and NewSouth’s decision. One Tweeter, ‘deadwhiteguys’, hoped that when the publisher died he’d meet Mark Twain who will ‘certainly throttle him with a whiskey bottle.’ There were a lot of tweets about how erasing the “N” word won’t erase racism, certainly not then and also not now.
Mr. Gribben was not naive about the reaction this would receive. “I’m hoping that people will welcome this new option, but I suspect that textual purists will be horrified,” he said. “Already, one professor told me that he is very disappointed that I was involved in this”, he told PW, mentioning how one Twain scholar, UCLA’s Thomas Wortham, compared him to infamous Shakespeare censor Thomas Bowdler, who published expurgated versions of the Bard’s work that were more family friendly.