Born to Trouble: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Throughout the film, writers and scholars comment on just what makes Huck Finn controversial, compelling, and relevant to the times we live in. Scholars such as David Bradley, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Jim Miller, and Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua examine its language, the characters of Huck and Jim, the time period in which it was written, and Twain's intent in writing the novel.
Teachers who want to help students understand the history of debate around the novel might want to show the film at the beginning of their study of Huck Finn. Although the film does retell the plot of the book, and in one comment alludes to the ending ("Jim risks his freedom to nurse Tom when Tom is injured by a bullet. Finally, Tom reveals his secret that Jim is a free man."), it is so embedded in the context of why the book is controversial that teachers should not find that it "gives away" the ending before students read. The film can also be shown at any point in a study of the novel.
Teachers may want to show the film before and after the book is read. Students can then explain, change, or enhance their opinions on the book and the controversy.
In addition to looking at the history of the book, the film also chronicles the recent crusade of Kathy Monteiro and her daughter, Raquel Panton, to remove Huck Finn from a high school required reading list in Tempe, Arizona. The claims of Monteiro that her daughter and other African American students suffered psychological injuries (due to increasingly frequent and intense racial harassment by the other students) and lost educational opportunities (during class discussions of the book African American students could read other books in the library) were dismissed by the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. In 1998 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's decision regarding the ban on the controversial literary works, saying that students' First Amendment rights would be violated if controversial works, such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, were removed from a school's curriculum on the basis of their content. The court did find, however, that the school's failture to address the racial harassment was a violation of Title VI.
Using the Film
Film Index: This index describes the film in detail and divides it into segments that can be easily selected for classroom use.
Preview: As with any film, preview Born to Trouble before using it with your class.
Taping Rights: You can tape the film and use it with your students for up to one year after its broadcast.
Videos: You may also purchase a video of the film or a video set of the entire 4-part Culture Shock series.
Next: About the Book
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