Sarah Pierson Wolff
October 04, 2008
The World in Black and White
“The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame” (Oscar Wilde). This statement is nowhere more valid in literature than with the writings of the controversial and prolific writer, Mark Twain. His writing that is most commonly singled out as racist is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; the novel Ernest Hemmingway declares "All modern American literature comes from” (Ernest Hemmingway). The novel is often described as being offensive to black readers, enabling despicable slave-era stereotypes, and deserving no place in today’s classrooms. The controversial novel is about a slave, Jim, who breaks the law and risks his life to win his freedom, and a white boy, Huck, who becomes his friend and helps him escape. Due to his upbringing Huck starts out believing that slavery is part of the natural order but as the novel progresses the readers see their friendship affects Huck’s judgments. By taking two characters out of their environment and allowing them to coexist, they move beyond society’s teaching and develop their own code of morality representing Twain’s hope for humanity.
By revealing the hypocrisy of slavery, Twain exposes how racism distorts the oppressors as much as those who are subjugated. The novel vividly portrays a society of moral uncertainty where respectable and seemingly moral white people show no concern about the inequality of slavery and dehumanization of blacks. The oppressors suffer racism’s hold, forcibly exposed to this malicious standard in 19th century Southern Antebellum America. This is clearly portrayed in the novel with Miss Watson, the widow, and Shelly Phelps, three representatives of the hypocritical religious and ethical values Twain criticizes in the novel. Moral people in society seem to have a complete absence of morals when it comes to the inhumane treatment of Blacks, an...