Satire In Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn

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Many school districts ban Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for being too racist. Whether it be the “n-word” or racism, we find so many faults with the novel but we never point out its fundamental problem: the book’s ridiculous and completely inaccurate depiction of slavery. Throughout the novel, Huck journeys with Jim outside with society, giving Twain multiple times to tell readers about slavery. In each attempt, however, Twain repeatedly fails to tell the readers the truth about slavery. Instead, he hides behind “satire” in order to excuse his depiction of the slavery experience and blames his characters for his inability to truly reveal the slavery experience. Regardless of Mark Twain’s intent in writing the novel, Adventures of Huckleberry …show more content…

Everyone knows that there is satire in Huck Finn, but Twain doesn’t tell the reader where satire stops and where truth begins. The biggest problem is with superstitions. When Huck describes Jim for the first time, he writes, “Jim, had a hairball as big as your fist… and he used to do magic with it… He said it would tell my whole fortune” (Twain 26). Huck obviously believes that Jim is crazy for believing in magic, but the fact that Jim does believe in something as far-fetched as that tells the readers that slaves during that period of time had absurd superstitions. Twain does not tell the reader that everything about Jim is satire so some readers end up believing that stereotype, which perpetuates the stereotype of African Americans as superstitious idiots. This stereotype is obviously untrue as Harriet Jacobs proves in Incidents. After Benjamin prepares to escape, he tells Harriet that “we are dogs here; foot-balls, cattle, ever thing that’s mean” (Jacobs 34). Benjamin acts perfectly rational as he plots his escape, with no hints of absurd superstitions anywhere. Twain completely misrepresents how slaves act when he capitalizes on the stereotype of superstitious behavior. Although Twain intended Jim’s behavior to be satire, readers cannot tell the difference and misread the novel. In Tom Quirk’s literary criticism, he explains that “the question is not whether or not Huckleberry Finn is racist, but… it is... ‘Do… students possess the literary sophistication to discern… its subtleties regarding race?’ If readers… profoundly misread the novel, can we truly expect high school students to get it right?” (Quirk 167). Whether the novel is racist does not matter; what matters is how readers perceive it. Twain refusal to differentiate truth from satire causes readers to misread the novel and

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