November 03, 2008

Praise for Huck Finn analysis

We get e-mail:Hello Rob Schmidt!  I never thought I'd say this to someone with the same name as my boss but, you are fantastic.  I've been reading your analysis on Huck Finn and every refute is perfect.  I am a high school student who was in the ...minority... (no pun intended) among people in my AP class who didn't think that Huck was the progressive masterpiece "of which all great American literature stems."  I found Huck Finn to be a cowardly work by yet another white, protestant male.  It is only praised for helping slaves in retrospect, there were so many other works that concretely helped people (not to mention abolitionists...but we don't praise them, do we?).  Also, I secretly hypothesize that Twain was thought supremely intelligent only because he bears striking resemblance to Albert Einstein.  Alas, I digress.

I wanted to thank you for enduring all of academia's airheads and providing such entertaining comebacks.  I agree with you whole-heartedly and want to thank you for the breadth of information you provided.  I was having trouble articulating exactly what was wrong with Huck Finn because criticizing an "anti-racist" book is generally avoided in the modern world.  You have a refreshing sense of honesty and intelligence.  Thank you.
Comment:  If you're wondering why I critiqued Huck Finn, I just happened to fall into an online debate that ended up lasting months. It's relevant because it shows how people--even highly educated ones--stubbornly resist the idea of assessing their own racial assumptions. To them, Twain--like America--must be flawless because everyone loves his work.

The same people who denied that Twain was prejudiced against blacks would deny that others of his era were prejudiced against Indians. For instance, Teddy Roosevelt or L. Frank Baum. Their writings were innocent, these people might say. They were just reflecting the racism of their times. They didn't know any better. Etc.


Anonymous said...

Re: L. Frank Baum -

From 1999 - 2003, I worked for the newspaper, Indian Country Today, the offices of which are located just a few miles east of L. Frank Baum's birthplace, the town/village of Chittenango, New York.

While I was there, the locals threw an (annual) big blowout for L. Frank's birthday, complete with a parade that featured the last of the "Munchkin" actors who appeared in "The Wizard of Oz."

Baum is a very beloved figure for most of the white inhabitants of upstate/central New York, many of whom I am sure have not the slightest inkling as to his anti-Indian perspectives. I once brought this information to a middle-aged woman's attention (at the bar of a local steakhouse) to which she angrily replied in a thick New York accent:

"Fuck you! Dat's somebody famous from heah!"

dmarks said...

I have a book on Baum's time in Chittenango that I read last week.

I believe Rob has some material on Baum at "Blue Corn Comics".

Sometimes I am not sure what to make of these authors who were so racist at a time when such racism was so common. H. P. Lovecraft is another.