Abstract

The n-word in Huckleberry Finn is a marker of bigotry as satirized by Mark Twain, but teaching it as humor requires preparation. The “NewSouth” edition without the n-word may be an alternative to the standard text, but a “CRASH!” of lightning provides drama for verbal presentation. Jonathan Swift, Petroleum V. Nasby, and Twain himself offend readers by using satire to expose social evils. After working with preparatory texts by such authors, students can be led to see how repeated intrusions of the n-word signal bad thinking and stupefied conscience even in “good” characters. The n-word becomes more and more intense throughout the novel because Twain is demonstrating how the mistreatment of Black Americans is an on-going problem. As students process the expanding irony, they can become more aware (and more angry) at how even good intentions can be ironically misdirected if the human subjects remain victims of unthinking prejudice through one word.

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