Mock Trial Reaction
After a long week of hard work the trial Mark Twain vs. the people has ended with the not-guilty verdict handed to Twain. Twain was accused of racism, with the main evidence being Huck Finn, and he was proved innocent. The decision was not an easy one, and there were many factors to take in. Overall, the jury did a good job, and gave the correct verdict. Twain was a man who was not racist, but instead put those who were racist into a morally questionable light. Twain used satire in an effective and subtle way that brought up controversy, which was and still is misunderstood by some. However, Twain’s intentions were to poke holes in those who practiced racism, and our jury succeeded in the hard task given them to decipher the century old works.
Intent is a hard thing to judge, especially the farther removed you are from the one whose intent it is. Twain lived long ago, and no one can truly know what he wanted. Yet Twain wrote in a way that is hard to be perceived as racist on the most basic level; he had a white boy learn to respect a black men, he had a black man better than multiple white men, and in the end he set the slave free. Some people take the more obscure things Twain says, and combine them with the time period he set his book in. It could be said that what Twain wrote can be taken as offensive, and it is by some. But it could be said that a book written about when Christians were slaves in Egypt may offend Christians if written from the perspective of one of the enslaving race. Christians would feel demeaned to hear such a story, but in the bible they are freed, and that is enough for modern day Christians. The fact that Twain freed Jim at the end of the book, coupled with the end of slavery in the real world could very well give that seem message of elation at freedom as a message of racism. I personally might originally be offended by a book about a society where enslaving Christians was accepted, but time heals all wounds, and no one holds grudges over these stories in the bible. Critics of Twain talk about how he wrote about a society where men were treated as property, yet many of the same people follow the word of the bible, which has passages of the same token. If writing about a time where a group of people was enslaved automatically qualifies you as racist, then the bible contains racism too. To me, Twain is trying to create the lunacy of the time period, and I don’t believe he meant to be racist.
Twain is also a celebrated satirist, and that must be taken into account. Twain himself said that he liked to start controversies, and writing a book like Huck Finn that would take satirical shots at slavery would seem to be congruent with his character. During the trial, an argument was made that if something was said, and was not intended to be racist, but sarcastic, yet someone took it that way, then was it not racist? This argument was paralleled with an accidental death. If you unintentionally killed someone, then were they not dead and you a murderer? The answer is yes and no. Yes they would be dead, but you would have been guilty of manslaughter. Legally, manslaughter is different, and while still a terrible thing, it is different than murder. By that same argument, is Mark Twain being racist. More likely he would feel the mark of people’s mistaking of his satire as something else, but he would not come off as a racist. Doing something intentional, and having something happen on accident, are very different things, and Twain isn’t a racist just because people are offended because they don’t understand him.
The job of the jury was not an easy one. They faced to compelling arguments, and did not have ample time to study every important detail. Yet, the jury did a good job deciphering the information. The outcome of the trial was congruent with the evidence presented, and Mr. Twain was acquitted of being something he is not. I am happy that the trial ended with, what was to me personally, the correct verdict.