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Open Right

Hanifa Deen: Mark Twain, Huck Finn, and Breaking the Ten Commandments

Session Info:

I am a great fan of Mark Twain both as a writer and a public speaker. Huckleberry Finn’ makes better reading for adults because we have the historical and cultural knowledge to read between the lines and feel the full impact of what Twain (through Huck) is telling us. I disagree with those who see his work as flawed because he was ‘white’. Twain’s/Clemen’s voice reveals the cruelty and degradation of slavery; we witness lynchings and segregation – and all of this through the eyes of an unschooled, unkempt, young boy who breaks most of the Ten Commandments as he makes his way along the Mississippi with Jim, the runaway slave.
Twain revealed his society like nobody else before him; he cared deeply and watched closely. His genius for language and nuance still astounds me.

Topics:

  • The troubled world of Samuel Clemens
  • Why has this book caused so much dissension?
  • The adulation of Hemmingway v the criticism of Jane Smiley
  • Why was Huckleberry Finn banned by the Concorde City Library
  • Why do some teachers in the USA today want Twain’s novel removed from school reading lists?
  • Controversy over the ‘N’ word.

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