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Interests: digital photography, writing psychological papers and books, playing piano and synthesizer, improvisation
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“ …NEVER the TWAIN SHALL MEET?” So what’s all the fuss about Mark Twains' use of the word nigger in the context of one of the acknowledged classics of world literature - Huckleberry Finn? On the face of it doesn't it strike present critics as a bit odd that Mark Twain insists on using the term nigger to describe the slave Jim, rather than referring to him using the less offensive term of slave? Are we simply to conclude that Mark Twain – a quintessential word smith - is at heart only a racist? Or is it more likely that Mark Twain knew exactly the power of his incendiary choice of the word nigger - an admittedly offensive term? I support Rodger Ebert's original position but can appreciate why he had to back down. Apparently Ebert backed down because he correctly felt the winds of political correctness breathing down his neck. And I think this retraction would be all together appropriate if any of us respond only to the surface story and fail to make the important effort to understand Twain’s intricate plot. In this connection, it strikes me as noteworthy there are currently 381 views [ correction: 800 views, a day later] but only two comments on this hot button issue. Representative of this understandable surface perspective is a partial critical comment which states: … “Anybody who attempts to degrade anybody because of moral indignation is no better than those they are degrading - no matter what word they use - they're just better at convincing others that they are.” Mark Twain is a writer’s writer whose quintessential tools are the words he consciously selects to both name and convey the complex interactions between his characters. The aim (or perhaps the result) of all serious writer’s creative labor is to generate concrete meanings into universal messages that shed light on the most complex issues we human beings are faced with on a daily basis. When such lofty aims are accomplished they stand the test of time. That is their message(s) are meaningful to any time and any location hence their universality. What is Huckleberry Finn’s universal message? As I interpret it – Huckleberry Finn is a love story that has its origins in an atmosphere of hatred embedded in a culture of prejudice. Huck and Jim initially caught in the pressure cooker of propaganda and class warfare – have to learn how to get along in order to survive. In so doing they learn to love each other bridging their notable differences by coming to respect their shared common humanity. In so doing, Mark Twain gives the world a blueprint enabling interested readers to learn how to love not in a soupy way but in a realistic way by working out a trusting relationship based on mutual respect facing and overcoming complex shared life problems. To censor the offensive word nigger thereby sanitizing this great work of fiction is nothing less than a violent intellectual rape which has the net effect of trivializing Twains’ remarkable story of transformation from reflexive hatred to organic love. De-facto hatred is the surface beginning of this great work whereas love between highly different characters is the ending. How this seemingly impossible and even improbable transformation occurs is the point of the book. Much of the time intimacy breeds contempt, but some of the time intimacy breeds understanding. It surely does between Huck Finn and Jim. Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2011 at My Blog
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Mar 15, 2010
Justice Scalia is a supreme court justice he is not a supreme person.