Iranian author Azar Nafisi argues that "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" illustrates the key virtue of novels, showing how the human mind can change. After the runaway slave Jim helps Huck flee his drunken, murderous father, Huck has to learn to rise above toxic society's attitudes. Nowhere else in literature is such an elegant statement made against societal prejudice and other errors.
But we ban it ("'Mockingbird,' 'Finn' pulled from Duluth schools curriculum," Feb. 7).
Nafisi notes society accepted white supremacy and slavery. Churches, schools, and families also shunned the homeless Huck as white trash. Author Mark Twain mocks society's rote learning, corporal punishment, and flawed criminal justice system as well. Though Huck and his peers innocently adopt the n-word so freely used in their society, they loved hanging out with black slaves and homeless Huck because, paradoxically, they were in ways freer than wrongheaded white society.
Nafisi suffered when mullahs banned books and women's education. The mullahs still enjoy protecting their theocracy from dangerous words. She organized secret women's reading groups to read banned books.
One of the toughest lessons is how to detect irony. It's a key measure of intelligence. It doesn't come naturally, but Twain's work does it superbly. Jim talks of freeing his family, and Huck's blood runs cold! This is theft! He laments that he wasn't raised properly! Thinking of Jim's kindness, he knows he'll go to hell for not turning him in, but decides he'll just go to hell.
That poignant moment is one of the finest in literature, exposing the immorality of slavery and racial prejudice from the mouth of a child.
Twain said he used humor and satire as fragrance for preaching. This elevated his work above lesser forms of literature Duluth students are now reduced to reading.