Literature can be viewed in many lights. The same story or novel could be inspiring to one and offensive to another at the same time. In the case of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, such subjectivity causes major conflict amongst its readers. Some argue that certain aspects of the book, such as the derogation of black characters and casual use of the "N word" promote racism. On the other hand, I believe the exact opposite in that Huckleberry Finn actually encourages civil rights and black equality. The negative depiction of certain characters and racist language is needed simply to make the story realistic and true to its time period. .
Racism is not simply words on paper, but the intent behind them. Twain's intent is not to put black people down or represent them in a negative light, but to use the bitter truth to show the sheer ignorance of the time. The most apparent controversial character in Huckleberry Finn is that of slave Jim. Jim is never depicted as a bad person, especially not when compared to Huck's lying, violent, drunkard, father. Most would find Jim to be a loyal, selfless friend and concerned father. Twain deliberately makes his readers like Jim, who happens to be a black man, while showing many of the white characters: Pap, the duke, and dauphin, as hypocritical unsivilized human beings. .
In certain situations, Jim is humiliated, belittled and insulted with racial slurs. We tend to judge things based on the norms and etiquette of today. However, when reading this book, one must keep in mind that it is set in a time in which African Americans were not looked at as humans, but as animals that were only good for menial labor. Unlike some authors, Twain presents the facts in a harsh but realistic manner without sugarcoating them. The frequent "N word" is not used because he agreed with its meaning and implication but because he is trying to portray the average white person's.