A Novel Is What It Is
Realism or Racism
Not many high school English teachers would argue against the importance of teaching English Literature in the school system. Many benefits come from reading these texts; for example, learning new vocabulary, which can increase one’s style of writing; learning different viewpoints, which gives a different way of looking at the world; and understanding modern culture, which allows the readers to see, through literature, how history has developed through time. The importance of teaching literature has not been at the forefront of any teaching debate; however, what types of literature to allow in the classroom has most certainly been a source of controversy. Ernest Hemingway wrote, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn;’” yet this book has continued to sustain at the forefront of controversy for many years in the American school setting due to racial connotations and strong language. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be included on high school reading lists because it allows realism to be felt through storytelling, racial episodes, and sensitive language.
Storytelling of past events that have happened in history play an important part of who people are today and aids in giving explanation of how certain roles have been set in place in our society. People are not living on this Earth going through life without having some kind of thought process of how things were before them. Most people have fond memories of visiting their grandparents and listening to stories of how it was in the olden days. It is just a fact, most people are curious about how life and times were before them; and the only way to learn about these mysterious times is to have them told, whether it be on the knee of your grandpa or through stories from books. Jocelyn Chadwick, a Graduate School of Education professor and a Twain scholar, is a strong proponent for keeping The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in school libraries today. She promotes the importance of learning lessons of realism through reading stories that show a more realistic view of how life was in the 1800s. She believes that Huck Finn is a great read and feels that there are great lessons to be learned from reading and discussing this novel. Learning is an essential part of survival, which does not always take on a positive tone but nonetheless an important one; and literature gives one the opportunity to experience some familiar and some unfamiliar territories. In particular, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a perfect example of familiar and unfamiliar territories for different readers. Those readers that are of an African descent are very familiar with slavery and prejudice and most likely experience a feeling much different than the readers that have very little personal experience with prejudice. Chadwick, an African American woman, believes that Huck Finn is also important because of the historical context the story relates about slaves. She is in tuned to her family history, where her ancestors and slavery can be traced on both sides of her family. Chadwick’s parents gave her a copy of Huckleberry Finn when she was a child. It was important to her parents to face racism head on. She said, “My parents gave me ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ when I was 7 years old, ‘nigger’ and all. My father didn’t want to hide from anything” (Powell). This novel is an important read because it is about slavery and relations between black and white people at a time when slavery issues were coming to a head politically leading to the civil war. The youth of today may express that slavery happened years ago and is over with so we should forget about it and move on; however, learning about slavery and how slaves were viewed and treated can be an important lesson to learn in the way of compassion. Learning about slavery through the eyes of Huck could help some to become sensitive...
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