Mark Twain: Racist or Not?

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Amanda Wiener
ENGL 133-22
Mark Twain Essay
Prof. Leonard
22, March 2011

There are many degrees of racism. During his time, Mark Twain was forward thinking and championed the downtrodden and oppressed. The only example of racism is his treatment of the Goshoot Indians in Roughing It. The main body of his work points to innovative anti-racist themes. Even if one admits that Twain hatches some derogatory stereotypes, labeling his work unteachable to our own time is extremely shortsighted (Kesterson 12). If Twain was racist, the process of learning is supposed to combat backwards teaching from our past through exposition and discussion.

Mark Twain is one of the most controversial authors (Kesterson 3). In recent years, there has been increasing controversy over the ideas expressed in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The novel has even been banned by public school systems and censored by public libraries. The basis for this censorship is that Mark Twain’s book is racist, but what people do not realize is Twain was against racism and used this book to make people aware of what was going on in the south. Mark Twain wrote about the life lived around him. He made people realize what was actually taking place daily by using southern dialect, showing the attitude of the other characters toward African Americans, and showing his depiction of black characters. Mark Twain was anti-slavery.

Mark Twain was the first American author to use explicit common folk dialect in his writings. Many people think dialect such as excerpts from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is all false (Smith 23). In truth, Mark Twain’s dialect is not accidental. It is composed of completely accurate forms of backwoods, southwestern dialect. An example of Huck’s dialect is “The widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she civilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and descent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I...
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