Imagine my horror when they started reading and I discovered they were reading a modern American translation of Julius Caesar. Seriously! Specifically, they were reading Act 2, Scene II, about Calpurnia's dream.
In the original text Calpurnia said:
What mean you, Caesar? think you to walk forth?In the modern translation Calpurnia said:
You shall not stir out of your house to-day.
What are you doing, Caesar? Are you planning to go out? You’re not leaving the house today.I found this disturbing on so many levels. First of all, I'm offended that anyone thinks that high school students can not learn to read and understand Shakespearean English. We did it and I know they're at least as smart as we were. And, second, isn't the way Shakespeare wrote what made Shakespeare Shakespeare? Translation into modern English takes away the rhythm and rhyme of the writing. Shakespeare DID NOT write in modern English. High school students SHOULD NOT read Shakespeare in modern English. Re-writing Shakespeare is what I call a tragedy!
If my memory serves me correctly, the use of the "n-word" is central to these stories. It's part of describing the world that Tom and Huck lived in. In my opinion, it's integral to understanding the relationship that Tom had with Jim and what was extraordinary about that relationship. To replace the "n-word" with the word "slave" is not right. Changing that word does not change the reality of the world in that time period. It's part of our history.
As George Santayana said:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.