Realism and Racism through Diction

huckleberry-finnIn Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain uses a regional diction to construct race in a controversial look at the South. All of the characters in the book have distinctive ways of speaking, but there are exaggerated differences between the prescribed diction of blacks and whites in the novel. Huck’s thoughts are more intelligent than his communication, and the audience is able to place more trust in him than other characters because they can see this intelligence. All the audience sees of the black characters in the novel is their poor language skills and whites’ perceptions of them. The reason we are able to distinguish the race of characters is because of Huck calling Jim and the other blacks “niggers”, which carried the connotation of a black individual when the book was written. Although Huck uses many double-negatives when he speaks and ends many sentences in prepositions, readers easily understand what message Huck is trying to convey. On the other hand, when Jim speaks, readers must carefully decipher what Jim is saying because his diction is so complex. Twain creates new words by writing the word the same way that Jim says the word: for example, “He’s been shot in de back. I reck’n he’s ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan’ look at his face– it’s too gashly” (Twain 59). By making it more difficult to understand Jim than Huckleberry, Twain portrays Jim as the more unintelligent individual. Other black characters in the novel speak in the same encoded way that Jim speaks. The slave Jack from the Grangerfords is not given full English words when Twain writes his speaking roles. He shortens and creates new words for Jack’s speech: “You shove right in dah jist a few steps, Mars Jawge; dah’s whah dey is. I’s seed ‘m befo’; I don’t k’yer to see em no mo'” (Twain 113). Twain’s use of regional diction allows his audience to be submerged in the racial situation of the antebellum South, while at the same time criticizing the institution of slavery and racial stereotypes.




About leyzao

A Nigerian girl, getting exposed to this misleading world.
This entry was posted in Alternative Assessment for Twain 2016, English III, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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