Editor and Mark Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben has caused a stir by overseeing a controversial new edition of Huckleberry Finn that cleans up the classic novel — most notably by replacing the ‘n’ word with the word ‘slave.’ In the editor’s introduction to the book, which combines Twain’s classics under the title The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Gribben defends his choices by relating a personal anecdote about a 2009 lecture tour in Alabama. “In several towns I was taken aside after my talk by earnest middle and high school teachers who lamented the fact that they no longer felt justified in assigning either of Twain’s boy books because of the hurtful n-word,” he writes. “Here was further proof that this single debasing label is overwhelming every other consideration about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, whereas what these novels have to offer readers hardly depends upon that one indefensible slur.”
Gribben also admits that while the edits might make this version of the book more appropriate for young readers, it discredits them as historical documents. “This NewSouth Edition of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn is emphatically not intended for academic scholars,” he writes, referring purists instead to past editions of the book.
Check out the full excerpt here, and then let us know where you land on the issue: What do you think of Gribben’s arguments? Are the books being censored or just edited?