E.W. Kemble, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1932
LANGUAGE AND POWER
Mark Twain’s Writing
Mark Twain’s Language
The difference between the right word and the almost right
word is the difference between lightning and the lightning
Language in writing: Should authors be able to use any words they choose? Why or
Censorship?: Is it okay for someone else to change an author’s original words?
Meaning: How does changing the words change the meaning of a story?
What is Vernacular?
You feel mighty free en easy en comfortable on a raf’.
~Huck, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Vernacular = common language; how people actually speak; slang
Everyday language: What are some examples of vernacular we use today?
Authenticity: Does using vernacular make the characters seem more realistic?
Why or why not?
Huck Finn and the “N-Word”
Huck Finn and the “N-Word” Documentary
Controversy: Why was the language considered
controversial in the 1800s? How about today? Have
the reasons changed?
Twain and censorship: Are publishers censoring
Twain’s book? Is this acceptable? Explain.
Choosing different words: Is slave less offensive
than the n-word? Why or why not?
Huck and Jim’s Friendship
Jim won’t ever forgit you, Huck; you’s de bes fren’
Jim’s ever had; en you’s de only fren’ ole Jim’s got
~Jim, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huck and Jim: How does Twain’s use of the “n-word” affect how
we see their friendship?
The “n-word”: Is Huck conscious of the word’s damaging effect
when he uses it?
Context: Is context important when studying the
language of the characters?
Powerful language: Are some words too
powerful to write or speak?
Authority: Where do words derive their power?
Can a word’s meaning change over time?
One of the first things you learn as a young
writer is ‘don’t say darn if you really mean
damn’… if you change even one word, you
break the magic of the spell we work so hard to
~ Pearl Cleage