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How German Translations of “Trash” in Chapter 15 of Huckleberry Finn Facilitate Misunderstanding the Whole Novel


After the fog lifts in Chapter 15 of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck plays a trick on Jim, and Jim’s reproval, implying that Huck’s behavior is unworthy of a friend but typical of “trash,” opens Huck’s heretofore closed mind on the subject of race. No German term carries the connotations of English “trash” that allow extension from twigs, leaves, and miscellaneous worthless things to poor Southerners whose belief in white superiority over colored races gives them self-respect. A few recent, complete and fairly accurate translations are improvements over the early versions that appeared between 1890 and World War II; nevertheless, annotation is required to define the specific repugnant quality of “trash” with which Jim evokes the good in Huck.

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