The Merchant of Venice Plying Big Muddy Waters

Huckleberry Finn is in the public domain.It is unchained and off the perils of indentured labor. Its simply reality television, unfettered by broadcast license and restrictions thrown back at in an untransformed state. This is not hate literature; it was meant to provoke and it seems to still have the bark and bite of a junkyard dog. This is not Julius Streicher venting, or D.W Griffith in the ecstasy of the bleached.Its southern comfort of a sort in a long line of grievances in the separate but equal line of thought.  Do all the do-gooders have a hidden agenda as part of a victim industry? Between Mark Twain, and the holocaust,and Anne Frank, and Ukranian famine, and Japanese internment and… and take a number for registration on the traumatism and guilt voyage…In the final analysis all these historical narratives make no rational sense for adults, let alone school children….

"50 Cent’s debut album, Get Rich or Die Trying (2003), shows how popular the word “nigga” is in the lyrics of rap songs. His album sold 872,000 albums during the first week of release in February 2003 breaking the old record of 803,000 set by Snoop Dogg’s 1993 album, Doggystyle (both albums were produced by Dr. Dre). The new rap sensation from Queens, New York used the word “nigga” a total of 131 times in his debut album, and his hit single In Da Club, which had the word “nigga” in it nine times, was the number one single on Billboard chart during April 2003. "

“I says I’ll never vote agin. Them’s the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me — I’ll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the cool way of that nigger — why, he wouldn’t a give me the road if I hadn’t shoved him out o’ the way. I says to the people, why ain’t this nigger put up at auction and sold? — that’s what I want to know. And what do you reckon they said? Why, they said he couldn’t be sold till he’d been in the State six months, and he hadn’t been there that long yet. There, now — that’s a specimen. They call that a govment that can’t sell a free nigger till he’s been in the State six months. Here’s a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and yet’s got to set stock-still for six whole months before it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger, and –”

Pap was agoing on so he never noticed where his old limber legs was taking him to, so he went head over heels over the tub of salt pork and barked both shins, and the rest of his speech was all the hottest kind of language — mostly hove at the nigger and the gov- ment, though he give the tub some, too, all along, here and there.” …. ( Huckleberry Finn)

"During the 1970s, comedian Richard Pryor released a comedy album called That Nigga’s Crazy where he poked fun at his ghetto experiences that included crime and drug use. More recently Chris Rock used the word “nigga” in his comedy routine to distinguish between blacks and underclass blacks. In what can be considered one of the most popular lines of his routine, Chris Rock referred to “niggas” as black folks that you don’t want to encounter and should avoid at all costs. He makes a very clear distinction between “niggas” and black people where he says, “…niggas have got to go…I love black people but I hate niggas.” Niggas for Chris Rock where of the criminal elements of society that break into your house, cause clubs to close down early have low expectations in life.”…when I go to the money machine tonight, I am not looking over my back for the media, I am looking for niggas.” Chris Rock was using the word in the elitist manner that I described above and as a black man he received little backlash for his use of the word “nigga,” of course because he is black."

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“There are many humorous things in the world: among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages….In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language….It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it….I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse….( Mark Twain )

Southey:Simply put, Noddy Goes to Toyland is a racist children's book. Huckleberry Finn isn't racist and isn't a children's book at all. Its frequent classification as such might be the problem here. I've never understood why Mark Twain's work became part of the American early-teen-lit canon (it's often taught in Grade 9). It's much the same way I'm surprised that Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, with its racist portrayal of Shylock, is so frequently assigned in high school. Which isn't to say it's not a really great play. It is. But Shakespeare wrote a lot of great plays, and I've often wondered if The Merchant of Venice isn't, at least in part, assigned because it allows teachers to talk about race, and not literature....

Tabatha Southey:It’s almost as though any book that doesn’t contain an opportunity for moral censure, an improving message or at least many verifiable facts is considered a waste of class time. As I recall it, when my children were in junior school, they read, or had read to them, almost nothing but books about girls escaping from Nazis. It’s a whole genre of books – young people escaping from Nazis…. I’m not sure anyone cared about the quality of the writing, as long as very young children knew about and thought about the Holocaust a great deal of the time, including almost all of the time they spent in reading class.

There was an observable shift in my children’s Nazi reading. First, there was a period in which the weight of the Nazi element appeared to go mostly over their heads: The characters in the book might as well have been escaping to Witch Mountain for all they understood. Later, as they matured, at around the age of 10, my children’s awareness increased and they were faced with the Holocaust, which really upset them.While so far they show no genocidal tendencies whatsoever, I think much of that reading was pointless and frightening.

"No one wants to be the parent to raise this issue, but it did occur to me that the class might also be directed toward books that weren't written to quell any growing Nazism in my children's innocent hearts or the equally innocent hearts of the other children on the monkey bars. They could just read good books or have good books read to them, and learn about Nazis later."

Consequently, I’m not inflamed by cries that if Huckleberry Finn isn’t taught in schools, American children won’t learn their history (the revising publishers raise that eventuality as the reason for their changes, and they’re probably correct). There’s another class for that. It’s called History.Huckleberry Finn is a novel. Which is a fine thing in itself, and if children learn to enjoy a fine thing for its own sake, they will find more fine things. They may even find Huckleberry Finn – perhaps not in school, but they will find it as it was intended to be found, somewhat cruel and disturbing, and with all its whips.

"Although the Southern society it satirized was already beginning to fade into the past by the time of publication, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn struck a nerve in the American psyche. It has remained controversial even to this day. The American Library Association ranked Huckleberry Finn the fifth most frequently challenged (in the sense of attempting to ban) book in the United States during the 1990s. As recently as 1999, the Pennsylvania State Conference of the NAACP had instructed its branches to file grievances with state agencies demanding that the book be removed from mandatory reading lists."


American historian and columnist Nat Hentoff once spoke to a young student after one of the many attempts to suppress Twain’s book. The eighth-grader in a Brooklyn public school had been reading Huckleberry Finn in class as part of a study unit in which students learned about the history of racism in towns such as Hannibal, Missouri where Twain had grown up. The young man wisely told Hentoff, “Do you think we’re so dumb that we don’t know the difference between a racist book and an anti-racist book? Sure, the book is full of the word ‘Nigger.’ That’s how those bigots talked back then.”

Baudelaire Jones:The primary issue behind such attempts at censorship is Twain's use of slang to describe people of color. But Huckleberry Finn is anything but racist. In a particularly controversial passage, as Huck rafts down the river with Jim, a runaway slave, he is tormented by the thought--bred into him by Southern society--that he must go to hell if he doesn't report Jim to his owner. He even goes so far as to right a note doing just that. But, in the end, Huck's character triumphs and he rejects society's immoral bidding, destroying the note and declaring, "All right, then, I'll go to hell!"

In 1982, Russell Baker wrote in the New York Times that “The people Huck and Jim encounter on the Mississippi are drunkards, murderers, bullies, swindlers, lynchers, thieves, liars, frauds, child abusers, numbskulls, hypocrites, windbags and traders in human flesh. All are white. The one man of honor in this phantasmagoria is ‘Niggger Jim,’ as Twain called him to emphasize the irony of a society in which the only true gentleman was held beneath contempt.” ( Baudelaire Jones )

"How did the lad from Stratford pick up all that detailed stuff about Italy, falconry, music, and much more that Amelia Bassano Lanier, the converso Jewish woman others have thought might have been his dark lady, had at her fingertips? How is it the guy who wrote about smart women didn’t even teach his own daughters to read? Maybe she wrote it all and he was her cover as well as her lover. There’s the problem of The Merchant of Venice, of course: that takes a little bit of arguing. But then there are the secret identifiers put in the plays after his death that point to her!..."

“Regardless of the long nasty history of the word, it is part of American culture, literature, and music. You will hear this word used in casual conversations, mostly among Blacks, young and old. “Hey, what are you doing today my nigga?” can be heard every day when riding the 4-train from downtown New York to Uptown. Get on the Crenshaw bus in Los Angeles from Adams Blvd to the City of Inglewood and I can assure you that you will hear young Black males and youth using the word as often as one would use a definite article. We need to get to a point where our society gets beyond whining about words and start dealing seriously about problems that exist in our communities. There are far too many other issues we should be consumed with rather than the speech of another person.” ( Alex Alonso )

"There is all kinds of stupid little boy pranking throughout the last ten chapters, leaving any sensible reader exasperated, confused and annoyed. How do they get away with still teaching this shit in schools? Twain is happy to allow the boys to complete revert to a level of immaturity that is baffling, and, in the light of Huck’s newfound humanity, depressingly pathetic. It’s impossible to draw a decent lesson or moral, because Tom KNOWS that Jim has been freed all along and is still happy to devise tortures for the man while he waits, psychologically tormented by the knowledge he might be branded or even lynched for running away. The only good part is that Tom does, in fact, get shot. Unfortunately, he lives. In sum: Mark Twain just made you sit through 30 chapters of excruciatingly boring 19th-century hijinks, and when he finally bequeaths a decent moral, he reverts right back to even more preposterous hijinks. For God’s sake, WHY?! The only explanation I can come up with is that he was a complete and utter LAZY ASS. "------

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One Response to The Merchant of Venice Plying Big Muddy Waters

  1. mason says:

    mark twain was rock and roll, but Othello had a rock and roll heart

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