The Problem with Protection

Whenever I read about another effort to protect the young from historical nastiness (the latest being the new edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn with “the pejorative racial labels” removed), I think of Roald Dahl’s “Pig” a very creepy story for adults.  In it a child is raised in isolation as a vegetarian and has an epiphany as an adult when first encountering meat.  Wanting to know more about this wonderful new food he goes to a slaughter house and….well, go find and read the story if you want to know what happens.  Suffice it to say it is a cautionary tale about keeping hard realities from children.

The Twain flap also makes me think of Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s They Called Themselves the K.K.K., a book for children that is full of those “pejorative racial labels” in the oral histories, interviews, and other primary sources that Bartoletti employs with extraordinary heft and power.

History ain’t pretty, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be known.


Filed under Children's Literature, History, Huffington Post

4 responses to “The Problem with Protection

  1. As Mark Twain well knew, censorship sells books.


  2. Thanks for this post, Monica. I had read about this revision of Huckleberry Finn, and it had been bothering me for a couple reasons that I couldn’t quite figure out. You’ve just articulated one of them with, especially with your final line.

    I think my other big problem with it is the idea that a writer’s words can be changed like this. What’s stopping them from replacing other words, from deleting certain scenes, or even from replacing or deleting characters or ideas?


  3. This whole flap makes me so angry–kids need to understand that the use and meaning of language has changed over the years. Twain was a product of his time; with his razor-sharp wit, I can’t help but wonder what kind of quip he would make in response to all of this hoopla.


  4. Twain would say, “More fools who don’t understand my books.”


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