New Edition of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ to Lose the N-Word: What Would Mark Twain Think?


huckleberry-finnWhat is a word worth? According to Publishers Weekly, NewSouth Books’ upcoming edition of Mark Twain’s seminal novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” will remove all instances of the N-word — I’ll give you a hint, it’s not nonesuch — present in the text and replace it with slave.

The new book will also remove usage of the word Injun. The effort is spearheaded by Twain expert Alan Gribben, who says his PC-ified version is not an attempt to neuter the classic but rather to update it.

“Race matters in these books,” Gribben told PW. “It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

Unsurprisingly, there are already those who are yelling “Censorship!” as well as others with thesauruses yelling “Bowdlerization!” and “Comstockery!”

Their position is understandable: Twain’s book has been one of the most often misunderstood novels of all time, continuously being accused of perpetuating the prejudiced attitudes it is criticizing, and it’s a little disheartening to see a cave-in to those who would ban a book simply because it requires context.

On the other hand, if this puts the book into the hands of kids who would not otherwise be allowed to read it due to forces beyond their control (overprotective parents and the school boards they frighten), then maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn’t affect the original, is there a problem?

What do you think — unnecessary censorship or necessary evil? Let us know in the comments below.



  1. what a pity- my daughter just read this book for school and it led to a thoughtful discussion on racism and name calling in the past versus those today who are african american and call each other the “n” word with no reaction or response. We can’t wrap our children in cellophane- they will suffocate!

  2. It is wrong to rewrite someone’s book and omit certain words just to be politically correct. What happened to freedom of speech? Are we so such a communist country already that classics are being rewritten to appease certain people? Maybe Shakespeare should be rewritten because it disparages Shylock as a money lender.

  3. What a shame. A classic book should remain in its original context. Part of social advancement and thinking is being able to assimilate into a changing world. Racism has and will continue to be an odious part of our culture. Changing words is not going to alter how we view others or ourselves. Greatness is meant to endure without being altered or subject to social sensitivity.

  4. I actually agree that removing the N-word and replacing with slave would be a very smart intersting thing to do. First off, we know that word existed and clealy we are not going to erase the fact that Mark Twain wrote the novel with that word. It would clealy be necessary to include a foreword explaining that the word was removed and replaced. This way we will read the book, know what its about and there will be a ghost of the past hidden under the word “slave” that will always be known. There is no reason why a society fighting racial oppression needs to key into the dialect that previously existed.