The 21st century is now the age of multimedia, replacing books and newspapers with television and the internet. Youths are looking for things that take less effort than reading and thought, searching for new and easier ways of entertaining themselves. Reading is now a task that your parents or teachers have told you to do; no longer being seen as a young student activity. Yet in American high schools, English is an obligatory course students have to take in order to graduate. One of the goals that students in high schools must achieve through these classes is to be able to read and comprehend simple literature and to gain knowledge of past cultural traditions through this classic literature. However, by forcing students to read these classic novels that are hard to comprehend, it can make some students stray away from their english and reading courses. This raises the question of, “Should classic literature remain in contemporary classrooms?” Classics need to be addressed on how it affects students and teachers in a classroom setting.
Many classic novels are up for debate based on their content and themes. In a book like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn it examines many societal issues such as poverty, racial issues, and our impact on society. It is a literary work by Mark Twain and was first published in 1884. Throughout Huckleberry Finn, slavery is a common theme and was a serious problem in the United States until 1863. This novel discussed Huckleberry Finn's relationship with common society and how this aided in the development of Huckleberry as a moral and honorable individual. It analyzed racial relations between African-Americans and White-Americans, along with his role in society based on the relationship between Huck and Jim. Huck comes to realize that Jim is more than just property, unlike what society saw during this time period. Huck embraced Jim as something more than an object. However, with all things considered, “some view the work as racist because of its use of racial epithets and perceived stereotypes” (Twain). It was the first major American novel to use slang language rather than traditional literary writing. The great realism in the book “helped to make it one of the most widely read and controversial books in the United States” (Twain). In fact, many schools are even banning this classic novel due to these reasons.
On the contrary, these novels are being taught in the classroom to teach these issues of the past. Growing up, Mark Twain experienced this issue first hand. He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, the setting of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which “was implicated in America's slave trade” (Smith). “Twain grew up in a family that used the labour of enslaved people” (Smith). He stated he recalled how chained people waited to be sold along the river. Novels like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn give people insights on real issues from the past that people experienced first hand. The conflict comes in when educators scrutinize novels like these because they question “whether the cultural values in certain canonized works have withstood the test of time” (Bresge). This is because of students’ lack of interest in these type of literary works because these books don’t relate to today’s society. Though, the lessons taught in classic books are important to teach new generations so we don’t repeat issues of the past. To make the literature interesting for students, it is essential that educators acknowledge that students nowadays are from a younger generation and thus have different interests and a different way of thinking. A good balance would be to continue to read classics most people are familiar with that deal with cultural issues, where if one hadn't read these books, he or she wouldn't understand some aspects of society, while also expanding reading options for students to choices of books written by colored authors or writers that give a different view than the typical “white hero” we see in many classic novels like To Kill a Mockingbird. By doing this, educators are inviting new work into the classroom that speaks to and reflects our modern world a lot better. With that in mind, the teacher should use practical strategies to teach their students literature such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which ideally would ultimately help the students connect to the book and thus help them find the book interesting to read.
By addressing classic literature in contemporary classrooms, teachers may be able to open up a whole new world for children and teens by using more literary work in school, a world where reading books is not as dull and frightening as they might have expected. This may then activate the interest of students in education in English literature. It is a difficult task for teachers to maintain the interests of students in literature such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn successfully and possibly even to ignite ideas of future English education. A teacher must think outside the box and imagine the literary world from the viewpoint of the students in order to make this desire a reality since the 21st century is now the age of multimedia.