Huckelberry Finn – Analysis of Chapter 18 Essay Sample

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1. Col. Grangerford and the rest of the Grangerford’s are introduced in the text as a good, religious and well endowed family.

* Readers are introduced to the concept of aristocracy – where the people are governed by the best citizens.

* Informed that there is an ongoing feud between the Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords, though no-one really knows why or how it originated.

* Sophia gets Huck to go back to the Church to fetch her Testament for her. Huck becomes intrigued as Sophia made it seem very urgent. As a result, Huck discovers a secret note inside the book reading ‘half-past two’.

* Huck’s ‘nigger’ convinces him to go down to the swamp and Huck complies and finds Jim and the raft waiting for him

* Jim goes on to explain how he recovered the raft

* Huck sees Buck and his cousin Joe being chased by the Shepherdsons. He discovers that Buck’s father and brothers are all dead, as they went after the Shepherdsons when they found out that Sophia and Harney had run off together. Huck feels guilty for causing the situation to arise and has to watch Buck and Joe die.

2. In Chapter eighteen, readers will find that the characterization of Col. Grangerford is extremely important in highlighting the contrasts between the Grangerford family and Huck’s family. The Grangerfords are constructed in a certain way, along with most other white adults in the novel, to highlight particular prejudices or flaws in the dominant white society of the 1800’s. Although this believes in the values of that society, and believe that by going to Church every Sunday they prove that they are devout Christians, they undermine all these values. Readers can see this through the way that Huck describes how civilized, wealthy and respected the Grangerford family is, then shatters that image by detaining the feuds excessive and tragic killings. Twain wanted to draw attention to how barbaric white society seems compared to black.

Due to the text being seen from Huck’s point of view, we have a biased opinion of the feud that exists between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. Though Huck does question the origins of the existing feud, readers can see that as a result of his relationship with the Grangerfords, Huck sees the Shepherdsons as the family in the wrong. As a direct consequence, readers are also positioned to see the family in a negative light.

Family loyalty can be seen as a very prominent theme during this chapter. This drives the actions of the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons. Throughout the chapter it is reinforced that the Grangerfords at least have a strong religion, however this is contradicted by their violent actions. Twain is suggesting that just because, like a typical upper-middle class white family is expected, they go to Church every Sunday and believe themselves to be good Christians, does not make it so. Twain is shaping reader opinions to show that it is your actions that define someone’s morals and not just adhering to the demands of society.

Family is an obvious theme in the novel and can be identified through the families that Huck interacts with, most of which often feel inclined to adopt him. Huck, however, having never had a family who truly cared about him, tends to reject people who offer him family. This is evident when Huck stays at the Grangerford’s home, as readers can see that no matter how long Huck stayed there, he never saw himself as a permanent member of the family and constantly kept an emotional barrier between himself and the Grangerfords.

3. Through Twain’s representation and characterization of the Grangerfords, he helped me to understand the meaninglessness of going to Church and preaching from the Bible and considering yourself to be a good follower of your religion if you don’t understand the actions and values that are a part of being that. I was able to see that the two feuding families’ actions were driven by their pride and loyalty to their family, rather than by the values that they preached.

This chapter also confirmed my understandings of the values of the 1800’s. It is obvious that family always came first no matter what and that to go against your family would have been unforgivable. I again saw that the Grangerford’s actions were driven by this fierce loyalty to one another and this is evident when it is discovered that both families can not even remember the cause of the fighting in the first place. This reinforced the notion that these people would blindly follow their families to their death for this bond.

The values expressed in this chapter are not really relevant in today’s society; however they do still apply in some situations. Most of the time, disputes are settled through courts and legal action is taken, rather than the violent actions that occurred in the text. Also attitudes toward the black population have changed dramatically, as they are no longer seen as being below the white population. Of course, racism still exists today, though not to the extent that it was in the novel. Black people now have the same rights as any other human being and racial prejudice is now illegal in most countries.

I selected this chapter as I felt that the issues involved held considerable weight. Many of these themes are somewhat relevant in today’s society and I felt that it would be important to explore these ideas. Many of these, such as family loyalty, slavery and religion were are central parts of Huck’s society and it emphasized how different he was as he did not possess the same qualities as the rest of society. Through exploring this I felt I could better understand the journey Huck was on and what he was trying to achieve through it.

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