Ebonics (Black English) in Pudd'nhead Wilson

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In "Pudd'nhead Wilson, do you believe the use of "Ebonics or Black English" drags down the reader by having to take more time to thoroughly decipher what is said by the black characters, or does it actually enhance the story through it's realistic use of language at the time, especially when compared to common English of the time or our time?

And for further discussion, should "Ebonics" be recognized today as a official form of English in school systems with large African American populations, in respect to school funding for those areas?

-- Anonymous, February 28, 2000


At first I did not like reading the "Ebonics or Black English" it actually would kind of interrupt what I was reading. I would start to read it and then I would have to kind of read through it again to kinda get the rythem of what they were talking about in the book. I did get used to it and I think that it is pretty cool. I get more into what the story is about when they have it in there. I do think that it does inhance the story a lot and I think it is very realistic. Most school systems with large African American populations it is just a habbit for them to use this form of language just like it is for me and you to use our own form. Many schools though have been contemplating over wheather they need to read and learn how to talk like me and you. It is pretty hard for them to. I do not think that they should have to. I have a African American uncle who talks with "ebonics or in the Black English" I think that it is kind of cool actually. He is the only black person in our family we all think its pretty neat. It is fun just to listen to them talk and sing.

-- Anonymous, February 28, 2000

As for in the story, I think that the Ebonics language actually written out in the dialouge adds much more character to the story and the characters of the time to go along. It gives the reader a more detailed story by pointing out more on the African Americans at the time and their placement. Most were not educated ,thus this was how they spoke. I do not think that Ebonics was such a whole different link of our language back then, rather than it was just a form of talking with different pronunciations to shorten words, since blacks were not allowed to be educated then, the proper English language was not all that important to most of them. They probably did not care for how correctly they said something, but just wanted to get their point across. And as for whites, they were probably well satisfied to hear the blacks talking in this (less-educated manner); nothing else probably made them feel so superior. As for today's Ebonics, I really don't think it should be considered a new language within itself. I still believe it shows a form of less education because the words are not pronounced fully and efficiently forward. To me, it depicts a language of our early Americanhood, that refused to educate the colored people. To me, it displays slavery. However, today, I feel it has been a form of talking that was picked up throughout the years. I have no problem with it being spoken, in fact I like it, but I don't think it should be considered a language;it is a slang from our own.

-- Anonymous, March 03, 2000

At first I didn't like the Ebonics because it took me longer to read. I had to reread it to understand it. Yet after awhile you learn to understand it and it does enhance the meaning of the book. I think that the ebonics helps express the way the times were back then. If the writing wasn't like that the book would be missing part of that time in history. As far as the Ebonics taught now as a language.. I don't think it should be taught. This would just be one more thing that would put a difference between the races and I also think that the effect would be a negative one.

-- Anonymous, March 03, 2000

I felt that Twain's use of "black english" in Pudd'nhead Wilson served as a useful tool to remind us throughout the book that Roxy was an oppressed and uneducated black woman. Without the use of this language in the book I feel that I personally would have lost some feeling for Roxy's character. If Twain would have written her dialogue as he did the other white characters, the full value of her character wouldn't have been achieved. Also, I feel that the use of black english in Roxy's role actually showed how smart of a woman she was. She was able to approach Tom with what she knew, to get what she wanted (and deserved) from him despite having no formal education. The black english in her character brought out her knowledge of life through her experiences in life.

-- Anonymous, March 03, 2000

It is harder to read the dialect but I think it really makes the story better. The black characters really come to life. This question sent me off on a tangent wondering what it was like for the original slaves learning English. Slaves came from lots of tribes and I read somewhere that they often didn't understand each others languages. In slave ports and on slave ships they probably heard all kinds of Northern European languages being spoken. My guess is that the English of the sailors at that time wasn't exactly the Queen's english. When the slaves got to America the English here would have been very diverse as all the Northern European accents could have made it. With all the different exposures it's no wonder that the language that slaves used evolved in such a unique way. I think Twain used the dialect to show that "black" language was a credible form of speech. What would make one dialect right and another one wrong?

-- Anonymous, March 04, 2000

The ebonics definately give you a more realistic view of how the blacks were. It does take longer to understand, but I think it is well worth it. I would much rather read something that depicts charactars closer than fly through a book. As for recognizing ebonics in school systems I have never put any thought into that before now so I am not for sure.

-- Anonymous, March 04, 2000

I know Twain was only making his characters realistic, but I absolutely hated reading the parts when a black person spoke. I just found it hard to read and understand. I don't think ebonics should be taught. Why go to the trouble to teach them a wrong language when they could just as easily learn it the right way.

-- Anonymous, March 05, 2000

At first It helped to develop the characters, but then it go to be very old. It made it hard to read and I definately think that it slowed things down. I don't think that it should be a part of what is taught today, cause to me it was only the language that was spoken of slaves when they were uneducated and didn't know anything else.

-- Anonymous, March 17, 2000

I do believe the use of Ebonics slows the story a bit and makes the reader labor more than he or she would otherwise, but it paints a more graphic picture and makes the story seem more real.

-- Anonymous, March 21, 2000

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