'Huckleberry Finn' not appropriate?

Regarding Arthur Magida's March 2 opinion piece "Huck's unvarnished truth": By requiring students to read "Huckleberry Finn," a school district is implicitly endorsing the racist obscenity used as part of Jim's name.

I don't believe that one racist word is the central and untouchable aspect of this book. Twain's novel is public domain, as such it would be perfectly appropriate to create and use in schools an edition of the book with the slave's name shortened to "Jim," and some dialogue modified so as to no longer be egregiously and unnecessarily offensive.

If the "n" word is an untouchable aspect of Huckleberry Finn, then Twain's racist message is the core value of this book. Twain a racist? Consider "Pudd'nhead Wilson": It is the tale of two children, one white, one black. The black child is the hero, the white child a villain in the body of the story. In the conclusion, we find that they were switched at birth, so the inherent racial attributes of good (white) and evil (black) prevailed regardless of upbringing.

For a Twain novel that is not racially offensive, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" is a good choice. As for Huckleberry Finn, either clean up the language or drop it.

Bill O'Meara Seattle

Arthur Magida's March 2 opinion piece caused me to marvel again at the power of Mark Twain's 115-year-old novel. I'm sure the old humorist would be pleased as punch that his work still had power to disturb and provoke, but I know he would be saddened that so much of the uproar was based on misunderstanding.

Few 19th-century novels make a more profound statement against America's national sins - racism and slavery -than does Twain's work. He shows us the subtlety with which racism works its way into our hearts and minds, and by making his protagonist a young boy, proves that hatred is not something children are born knowing how to do, but something that adults teach them.

Since I read it 20 years ago in high school, the drama and dilemmas presented by this book have stayed with me, especially its portrayal of the power of wrong ideas to deceive and the power of the human will to overcome them. How sad for us to deny our children the responsibility and privilege of reading "Huckleberry Finn," of understanding where our country has been, of imagining where it might yet go.

Robert D. Baker Carol Stream, Ill.

I'll keep my smaller SUV

Regarding "Return of the Jetta: Mileage matters again" (March 10): Back in 1990 I bought a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) but not a gas guzzler - I remember the '70s all too well. I bought an Isuzu Rodeo 4-cylinder which gets about 24 miles to the gallon. Recently, I considered a bigger SUV but knew that gas wasn't going to stay cheap forever. Now I have a wife, a teenage son, an active eight-year-old girl, and two large dogs. I think we are just going to put up with the tight fit for now, and try not to smirk too much when we fill up next to a land barge like the Chevy Suburban.

David Waddell San Jose, Calif.

What about electric cars?

Regarding your editorial "Pump prices this summer" (Feb. 29): I was surprised that there was no mention of electric cars as a solution to the "politics of oil."

Laurie Loftus Sudbury, Mass.

Editor's note: In columnist David D. Newsom's March 8 article on the opinion page, Mohamad Khatami was erroneously identified as the prime minister of Iran. He is the president. The Monitor regrets the error.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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