The retired chairman of UCLA's English Department has a collection of tchotchkes, gadgets and artwork that show how the 1884 classic has been romanticized by fans, the public and even the author.
By Bob Pool
"Jim was an encumbrance for Huck. There's been a great deal of romanticizing about the bond that the two of them form on the voyage down the river. But Huck never realizes slavery is wrong."
Was Huckleberry Finn a racist?
"Yes," Wortham said. And so was Mark Twain.
Twain used the "N-word" 206 times, according to Wortham. "Each time that word is used is calculated" by Twain for its shock value for an audience that at the time was unaccustomed to literature written in the vernacular, he said.
The use of the n-word is just the tip of the iceberg. The best arguments for Huck Finn's being racist are Jim's ignorance and superstitiousness. Being unschooled isn't the same as being dumb, but Jim is as foolish as a child. And Jim's over-the-top Negro dialect. He talks like every minstrel clown in history, not a real person.
By the way, rafting downriver to the South, where slavery is more pervasive, is a pretty damn stupid mistake. For Jim the character and for Twain the writer. I wonder why Twain wrote it that way, and why critics haven't pounced on this blatant mistake. What next...a Jew fleeing Nazis who hides in Auschwitz?
For more on the subject, see Is Huck Finn Racist? and Mark Twain, Indian Hater.
Below: Childlike blacks and savage Indians were Twain's youthful view of minorities.
"Help me, massa! I sho nuff is so ignorant I can't speak no good!"