Huck Finn

Report

Notes adapted from Joseph Claro in “Mark Twain’s
Huckleberry Finn,” Barron’s Educational Series; and
Ronald Goodrich in “The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn,” Living Literature Series.
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The following is satire on the
society in which Twain grew up.
Twain grew up in a society that
had high regard for families like
the Grangerfords: As an adult,
Twain felt contempt for people
who used a family tree to hide
inner decay.
Huck describes the decorations
in loving detail; yet, they are in
pretty poor taste.
Emmeline’s drawings are dark
and gloomy – they are also
maudlin and overly sentimental.
“Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots,”
the annual ritual on the dead
girl’s birthday – it’s all very
comical.
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“Everybody was sorry
[Emmeline Grangerford]
died…but I reckon, that
with her disposition, she
was having a better time in
the graveyard.”
Huck is naïve and means
this statement literally:
Emmeline doted on death
and therefore would
presumably be happiest
among the dead.
Twain, in contrast, is clearly
laughing at the poetic
justice of Emmeline’s early
death.
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“Buck said [Emmeline]
could rattle off poetry
like nothing. She didn’t
ever have to stop to
think.”
Huck’s tone is one of
admiration for
Emmeline’s ability. Twain
knows that one cannot
“rattle off” good poetry
and that “stopping to
think” is necessary; he is
laughing at Emmeline’s
verse-writing abilities.
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Huck’s description of the
Grangerfords show how
upright, admirable, and
aristocratic they are: Twain
uses this as bitter sarcasm.
The Grangerfords start to
appear silly – the feud, etc.
How intelligent can they
be? How admirable is pride
when it leads to senseless
death? What kind of people
teach their children to
accept murder as normal?
And how can Buck so
revere the Shepherdsons?
Is this a game?

“Next Sunday we all went
to church…The men took
their guns along…It was
pretty ornery preaching
– all about brotherly love,
and such-like
tiresomeness; but
everybody said it was a
good sermon, and they
all talked it over going
home, and had such a
powerful lot to say about
faith, and good works…”
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Huck is simply telling what
happened, his reaction to it, and
the reactions of the Grangerfords.
Twain is conscious of many
ironies:
• The men took their guns to
church to hear a sermon about
brotherly love.
• Although Huck found the
sermon tiresome and ornery,
he was the most civilized and
religious person in the
audience.
The butt of the criticism here is
not only the Grangerfords but
also the church, for it is implied
that the church is lacking in true
vitality.
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“…There weren’t anybody
at the church, except
maybe a hog or two…If you
notice, most folks don’t go
to church only when
they’ve got to; but a hog is
different.”
Again, Huck mainly reports
the facts as he observes
them.
Twain, however, is clearly
implying that so far as
going to church is
concerned, hogs are more
faithful than these human
beings.
By the end of the
chapter, even Huck is
disgusted, and he’s too
sickened by the details
to share them.
 Huck is slow to learn
this lesson – many of
the people he looks up
to are not as admirable
as he thinks. And he is
very happy to get back
to the world of the raft
with Jim.

 There
isn’t any
explanation for why
Twain seems to have
forgotten about Jim
during this extended
portion of the novel.
 Ch. 19 begins with
one of the longest
descriptions in the
book of the beauty of
being on the river.

Huck and Jim meet the Duke and
Dauphin (doe-fan)/King
 Temperance revival: religious meeting
at which drinking alcohol is
condemned.
 Jour printer: a printer who travels
around looking for a day’s work (“jour”
is the French word for “day”)
 Patent medicine: usually a concoction of
any ingredients available, accompanied
by wild claims for what it will cure.
 Mesmerism: hypnotism
 Phrenology: the study of personality as
it is revealed by bumps on the skull.
 Laying on of hands: curing people by
touching them and praying aloud.

The king comes up with a plan
that will allow them to travel the
river during the day that involves
some unpleasant news for Jim.
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The Duke’s Shakespearean
soliloquy is a piece of
comedy in its own right. As
fake as it is, Huck is
impressed.
David Garrick and Edmund
Kean were real people, the
most famous
Shakespearean actors of
the 19th century.
In town, Huck finds himself
in surroundings that are
directly opposite the ones
he just left with the
Grangerfords – yet no more
admirable.
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Huck witnesses the coldblooded shooting of a toughtalking drunk who insults a
well-dressed man named
Colonel Sherburn, who shows
a little patience by giving the
man a warning but then kills
him when the warning is
ignored.
The townsfolks’ reaction? To
fight over “front-row seats” to
see the dead body, and to
revel in a reenactment of the
shooting.
Only then to they decide to
lynch Sherburn.
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“The average man’s a
coward…The average man
don’t like trouble and
danger.”
This is Sherburn, who has
just shot and killed a man in
cold blood and is
contemptuous of the crowd
that has come to lynch him.
It is a mob comprised of
average men who lack the
courage to face a single
true man in daylight.
Without masks or the cover
of darkness, they are
cowards.
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The speech reflects Twain’s
own attitude toward people
in general.
The human race is, for the
most part, made up of fools
and knaves.
Note Sherburn refers to the
average man; he (and
Twain) imply the existence
of true men who can rise
above the average.
We can see Jim as a true
man of natural nobility;
Huck himself is growing
into such a man.

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