Teaching Huck Finn: It’s Imperative We Read The N-Word Aloud. That Said, Nathan’s Really Gotta Dial Back His Jim Voice
Every year as a high school teacher I find myself responsible for teaching Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book that uses the N-word 219 times. I believe that the text should be un-sanitized and that the N-word should be used and that its negative effect should be felt. This controversial point being said, Nathan’s really gotta reel in his Jim impression.
Unlike his classmates, who struggle to read through the dated ebonical cadence of Jim’s dialogue, Nathan unfortunately hits each and every syllable with impressive accuracy and a discomforting enthusiasm.
Using the N-word in class provides us with a teachable moment. In preparation for teaching Huck Finn, I lead discussions about race that engage all my students, but then when we started reading, Nathan just took off with his Jim voice, props and everything.
Twain shows us that the N-word is a tool that continuously strips Jim of his humanity. Nathan grasps this point well in class discussions, and even makes astute connections to current race relations. But later, when reading aloud for Jim’s character in class, he essentially puts on a minstrel show for a crowd of no one.
His fellow classmates have been growing more and more perturbed. I had to move him from other students because they all agreed to beat his ass.
Furthermore, I’m already stressed enough worrying about students having weapons in their bags. Now I have to worry about this kid bringing shoe polish.
Mr. Hannity, 10th Grade Teacher