"Why Can't You Behave, Huckleberry?" Sivilizing Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Lane Ferrero Fletcher


Huck Finn seems to be unique in American literature: it is simultaneously one of the most widely read and loved books of all time, and one of the most frequently challenged and vilified. The heated public debate over whether or not it should be suppressed or celebrated, which began in 1885, has recently been reignited with the publication (in February 2011, by New South Books) of a version of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from which two words, which the editor (Allen Gribben) feels are most offensive, have been expunged.

People who object to the book claim it is racist, bigoted, and pro-slavery; an offensive idealization of white male adolescence; and threatening and hurtful to many students. Supporters point to its canonical status in American literature and its value as a unique cultural and historical resource through which students can confront racism, interpret difficult rhetorical strategies, and compose and articulate their responses.

This paper reviews historic and current positions in this controversy and examines the costs and benefits of including the work in high school and college curricula.



rhetorical hermaneutics, diverse classroom, Twain, racism,

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