Huck Finn

The Situation — Your Opinion Is Needed

For this essay, imagine that you are the parent of an 11th grade high school student whose teacher was planning to teach Huckleberry Finn during this school year. However, because a group of parents have petitioned the school board, there will be a special meeting held to determine whether the book should continue to be taught in the school. The main objections to the book being taught are its use of the “N-word” and negative portrayals of African Americans which the parents say creates discomfort among the students. Parents on both sides of the issue have contacted you and asked for your support, and as an active member of the Parent Teacher Organization you feel a responsibility to weigh in on this issue.

The Opposition

Parents opposed to teaching the book reference other schools that have banned this novel in recent years, that mainly believe that “other novels that didn’t require students to feel humiliated or marginalized by the use of racial slurs” (Links to an external site.) could be taught instead.

The Supporters

Parents in support of the book being taught site First Amendment rights and “a duty not to give in to pressure to suppress unpopular or controversial ideas.” (Links to an external site.)

Which side will you take? Does Huckleberry Finn deserve the importance among literary works granted by Ernest Hemingway when he said, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn’”? Or, have the racial slurs in this book obsoleted its message? Or, as some claim, is it a racist novel?

In this essay, you will explain your position (you have been specifically asked to submit a written statement). To prove your point (on whichever side you take), you will need to examine and explain the value or lack of value in two to three specific episodes in Huckleberry Finn. To give your argument more weight in this very tense discussion, you will want to research what literary critics have said about the book over the years, using these positions to both support your views and refute the opposition.

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