Essay, Research Paper: Adventures Of Huck Finn Examination

Literature: Mark Twain

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Huckleberry Finn provides the narrative voice of Mark Twain’s novel, and his
honest voice combined with his personal vulnerabilities reveal the different
levels of the Grangerfords’ world. Huck is without a family: neither the
drunken attention of Pap nor the pious ministrations of Widow Douglas were
desirable allegiance. He stumbles upon the Grangerfords in darkness, lost from
Jim and the raft. The family, after some initial cross-examination, welcomes,
feeds and rooms Huck with an amiable boy his age. With the light of the next
morning, Huck estimates "it was a mighty nice family, and a mighty nice
house, too"(1335). This is the first of many compliments Huck bestows on
the Grangerfords and their possessions. Huck is impressed by all of the
Grangerfords’ belongings and liberally offers compliments. The books are piled
on the table "perfectly exact"(1335), the table had a cover made from
"beautiful oilcloth"(1335), and a book was filled with "beautiful
stuff and poetry"(1335). He even appraises the chairs, noting they are
"nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly sound, too--not bagged down in the
middle and busted, like an old basket"(1335). It is apparent Huck is more
familiar with busted chairs than sound ones, and he appreciates the distinction.
Huck is also more familiar with flawed families than loving, virtuous ones, and
he is happy to sing the praises of the people who took him in. Col. Grangerford
"was a gentleman all over; and so was his family"(1338). The Colonel
was kind, well-mannered, quiet and far from frivolous. Everyone wanted to be
around him, and he gave Huck confidence. Unlike the drunken Pap, the Colonel
dressed well, was clean-shaven and his face had "not a sign of red in it
anywheres" (1338). Huck admired how the Colonel gently ruled his family
with hints of a submerged temper. The same temper exists in one of his
daughters: "she had a look that would make you wilt in your tracks, like
her father. She was beautiful"(1339). Huck does not think negatively of the
hints of iron in the people he is happy to care for and let care for him. He
does not ask how three of the Colonels’ sons died, or why the family brings
guns to family picnics. He sees these as small facets of a family with "a
handsome lot of quality" (1339). He thinks no more about Jim or the raft,
but knows he has found a new home, one where he doesn’t have to go to school,
is surrounded by interior and exterior beauty, and most importantly, where he
feels safe. Huck "liked that family, dead ones and all, and warn't going to
let anything come between us"(1340). Huck is a very personable narrator. He
tells his story in plain language, whether describing the Grangerford's clock or
his hunting expedition with Buck. It is through his precise, trusting eyes that
the reader sees the world of the novel. Because Huck is so literal, and does not
exaggerate experiences like Jim or see a grand, false version of reality like
Tom Sawyer, the reader gains an understanding of the world Mark Twain created,
the reader is able to catch Twain’s jokes and hear his skepticism. The
Grangerford's furniture, much admired by Huck, is actually comically tacky. You
can almost hear Mark Twain laughing over the parrot-flanked clock and the
curtains with cows and castles painted on them even as Huck oohs and ahhs. And
Twain pokes fun at the young dead daughter Huck is so drawn to. Twain mocks
Emmeline as an amateur writer: "She warn't particular, she could write
about anything you choose to give her to write about, just so it was sadful"(1337).
Yet Twain allows the images of Emmeline and the silly clock to deepen in meaning
as the chapter progresses. Emmeline is realized as an early portent of the
destruction of Huck’s adopted family. The mantel clock was admired by Huck not
only for its beauty, but because the Grangerfords properly valued beauty and
"wouldn’t took any money for her"(1337). Huck admired the
Grangerfords’ principles, and the stake they placed in good manners, delicious
food, and attractive possessions. But Huck realizes in Chapter 18 that whereas
the Grangerfords may value a hand-painted clock more than money, they put little
value on human life. Buck Grangerford provides the third view of the
Grangerford’s world. He is the same age as Huck; he has grown up in a world of
feuding, family picnics, and Sunday sermon that are appreciated but rarely
followed. Buck, from when he meets Huck until he is brutally murdered, never
questions the ways of his family. For the rest of the chapter, Buck provides a
foil for Huck, showing the more mature Huck questioning and judging the world
around him. In fact it seems Buck does not have the imagination to conceive of a
different world. He is amazed Huck has never heard of a feud, and surprised by
Huck’s desire to hear the history and the rationale behind it. In Buck
Grangerford’s rambling answers we hear Mark Twain’s view of a southern
feuding family, and after Buck finishes his answer, we watch Huck’s reaction
to the true nature of the Grangerfords. Buck details Twain’s opinion that a
feud is not started or continued by thought. The reasons for the feud have been
forgotten, and the Grangerfords do not hate, but in fact respect, their sworn
enemies. They live their lives by tradition, and the fact that the feud is a
tradition justifies its needless, pointless violence. From the dignified Colonel
with "a few buck-shot in him"(1340) to Buck, who is eager for the
glory to be gained from shooting a Shepherdson in the back, the Grangerfords
unquestioningly believe in de-valuing human life because it is a civilized
tradition. It is interesting that the only compliment Huck gives to a
Grangerford after Buck shot at Harney Shepherdson was to Miss Sophia. He admits
that the young woman who denied part in any family feud is "powerful
pretty"(1340). But the rosy sheen that had spurred Huck to use the word
‘beautiful’ six times previously in description of the Grangerfords has
evaporated. He attends church with the family and notices all the Grangerfords
keep their guns close by. Huck thinks it "was pretty ornery
preaching"(1340), but the feuding patriarchy praises the good values listed
by the Preacher. The hypocritical mixture of guns and sermons, holy talk and
bloodthirstiness make it "one of the roughest Sundays [Huck] had run across
yet"(1341). He now questions the motives of everyone in the household,
including Miss Sophia as she sends him to the church on an errand. By this point
the cynical, sarcastic twain and the disillusioned Huck are of one mind. Huck
walks among a group of hogs that have sought the coolness of the church and
notes "most folks don't go to church only when they've got to; but a hog is
different"(1341). The narration of Huck's final day with the Grangerfords
is prefaced by: "I don't want to talk much about the next day"(1343).
For Huck's easy-going fluid dialogue to become stilted and censored, the reader
knows the young boy has been hurt. A senseless fatal feud is not the only
tragedy depicted through the events of that day, also shown is the heartbreak of
a young boy who loses every vestige of the hopeful trust he put in a father,
brothers and sisters. Huck is shocked to hear the fatherless, brotherless Buck
complain he hadn't managed to kill his sister's lover on an earlier occasion.
And then from his perch in the tree, Huck hears Buck's murderers "singing
out, 'Kill them, kill them!' It made [Huck] so sick [he] most fell out of the
tree"(1344). He wishes he "hadn't come ashore that night, to see such
things"(1134). The end of chapter nineteen, when Huck returns to the raft
and Jim, almost exactly mirrors the end of chapter eighteen. Both chapters
conclude with Huck enjoying a good meal with good company in a cool, comfortable
place. First it is with the Grangerfords in the cool, high-ceilinged area in the
middle of their double house. "Nothing could be better"(115), Huck
thought. But only a few pages later the raft and Jim provide the same comforts.
Nothing had ever sounded so good to him as Jim’s voice, and Huck felt
"mighty free and easy and comfortable on [the] raft"(128). . Huck
happily slides away from the bloody scene with the unorthodox father figure of a
runaway slave. Huck has realized he does not need a traditional family to make
him feel safe and happy. He must develop and live by his own integrity, not the
past decisions of a father or grandfather. This is clearly Mark Twain’s
opinion also, and the reader, full of relief at Huck’s escape, is aware that
the author sent us all into the Grangerfords’ world to prove just that point.
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