American Experience Huck Finn Synthesis Question
Mark Twain once said: "Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it." Yet, since the day it was first published in 1883, his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been criticized, banned, and even censored. In the beginning, folks thought it too provocative and the language too coarse. Or was it that Twain’s satire of the ugly truth was too much for society to handle? Over one hundred years later, the controversy continues to build and has seemingly reached a plateau with a new version that replaces the “N-word” with “slave.” Many scholars consider this new version to be absolute censorship, while others appreciate its thoughtfulness and sensitivity. Those against this revamped version wonder what’s next to be censored, while those for the new edition think that it will make the novel more accessible.
Read and take notes on the following sources carefully.
Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the secondary sources and directly refers to your primary source, defend your position on the value of Huck Finn in today’s high school classroom. If you decide Huck Finn has merit, then you must discuss the aspects of the novel that make it great. If you decide it is inappropriate, then you must discuss those aspects of the novel. Your conclusion should discuss what impact your position could have on society as a whole. This essay question requires you to synthesize a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written argumentative essay. Synthesize sources, then refer to them to support your position, and cite them accurately. Your argument should be central; the sources should support your argument. Avoid merely summarizing the sources or the plot of the book.
Source 1—handout (required reading; this is the definitive criticism of the novel; pay attention to * for your note taking)
Trilling, Lionel. “Huckleberry Finn.” Need bib
Source 2—handout (another good source in support of Huck Finn as a masterpiece)
Smith, David L. “Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse” p. 362.
Morrison, Toni. “This Amazing, Troubling Book.” P. 385.
Eliot, T. S. “Introduction to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” P. 348.
Source 5--handout (This source provides serious criticism of the ending of the novel.)
Murphy, Kim. “Teacher thinks Obama is proof that 'Huckleberry Finn' needs to leave the classroom” L.A. Times, 19 Jan. 2009.
(First seven paragraphs)
Kakutani, Michiko. “Light Out, Huck, They Still Want to Sivilize You.” N.Y. Times 6 Jan. 2011.
(First four paragraphs)
Rawls, Phillip. “Huck Finn: Controversy Over Removing the ‘N word’ from Mark Twain Novel.” The Christian Science Monitor 5 Jan. 2011.
Conan, Neal. Interview with Alan Gribben. Talk of the Nation. Natl. Public Radio. WGCU, Ft. Myers, 5 Jan. 2011. Radio.
(Introduction and first three questions)
Matthews, David. “Dumbing and Numbing Down Jim.” NY Times 6 Jan. 2011.
(Last four paragraphs)
Duban, James. “We Want Readers.” NY Times. 6 Jan. 2011.
Whelan, Debra Lau. “Student Vaughn Hillyard Awarded for Defending Free Speech.” School Library Journal’s Extra Helping 13 Jan. 2011.
(Introduction and first four paragraphs)
Beeler, Nate. Washington Examiner. 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 13 Jan. 2011.
Keefe, Mike. Cartoon. Denver Post. 8 Jan. 2011.
Source 14 (Audio--3 authorites discuss their opinions on the bowdlerizing of Huck Finn)
Source 15 ( Audio--Satirical discussion of the censorship of Huck)
Source 16 (Audio--Satirical commentary on the censorship of Huck Finn; mature content)
Source 19—tons of personal comments from random people
Source 20 (This is a collection of articles from various sources on Huck Finn and Mark Twain. Use this link when you know what aspect of the novel you are trying to research.