Can you imagine a literary work which has been a success for countless years and suddenly, on the whim of a few, it has to be changed almost out of all recognition? I am sure you’ll be able to think of several titles, if you put your mind to it, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain which, as we all know, is now being issued on a new, clean edition. That is, the use of the word Nigger or Nigga have been deleted and replaced with something else.
In ordinary, everyday language, such a word used by some people is considered an insult. When used by others – just take a glance through Twitter for examples! – it can be a term of affection through to an insult, with many different connotations in between. I am certainly not out to condone the use of such language, when meant as an insult, but when it is placed within a historical context, in a historical work from the nineteenth century?
Racial prejudice is a terrible thing, Yossarian. It really is. It’s a terrible thing to treat a decent, loyal Indian like a nigger, kike, wop or spic.
And in modern-day contexts? What happens when these words are used to describe the way a person really speaks, to give depth to his character? Should we eradicate all these words simply because they could be used as racial insults and forget that they are still part and parcel of our daily lives, normal speech for those writers wish to portray?
The quote is from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, another classic, albeit modern, which I have the pleasure to be reading at the moment. The caustic wit, the attention to detail, the characterization, all would be lost if someone decided to clean up and that, even when political correctness is high on some agendas, even when it might seem to be the right thing to do, would ruin an excellent work from an excellent author.
Somethings, no matter how disturbing they may appear on the surface, need to be left as they are and then, for those with a more open mind, they will foster more understanding of how people really are rather than how a few demand that they be: full, of color and life, prejudiced or not.
Love & Kisses, Viki.