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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

Huck goes into great detail about Colonel Grangerford, whom he clearly admires. The Colonel is a wealthy landowner and has many slaves. Huck also describes each of Grangerford's children.

While Buck and Huck are out hunting, Buck shoots at a man named Harney Shepherdson, but he misses. When Huck asks him why he shot at the man, Buck tells Huck of the feud that his family has with the Shepherdsons. When questioned Buck cannot explain when the feud began or what the cause of it was.

The two families attend the same church. One Sunday Sophia Grangerford leaves a book at church and she asks Huck to get it for her. Huck agrees and brings the book back to her. It contains a note with the words "Half-past two" written on it. Later Huck's slave—who was assigned to him by the Grangerfords—takes him to the swamp. Jim is waiting for him and he tells Huck that he made it to shore after the raft got smashed. However, he could not call out to Huck because he was afraid of being caught. Jim also lets Huck know he has found and fixed the raft.

The next day Sophia and Harney elope, and the feud erupts again. Huck finds Buck who tells him that Colonel Grangerford and two of his sons have been murdered. Buck and his cousin are trying to extract revenge, but they eventually die too. Huck is bothered by the violence and is happy to make his way back to Jim and the swamp. They get onto their raft and enjoy being out on the Mississippi once again.

Analysis

Buck sees the feud as honorable. The feud is part of Buck's family's tradition and participating in it is a way to show loyalty and pride in his family. Buck recognizes that the feud will eventually kill him as the feud does not end until everyone is dead. Like his sister, Emmeline, who romanticizes death through poetry, Buck romanticizes death by his full-fledged participation in the feud. The feud sounds like something Tom Sawyer would read about in his adventure books. However, in reality the feud leads to senseless deaths and no one wins.

Huck tries to make sense of the feud but cannot understand Buck's blind adherence to the notion of killing for no reason. Huck recognizes that there is nothing romantic about it, and the whole thing makes him sad.

The scene describing the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons shared trip to church is filled with irony and comes off as funny. The men bring their guns but leave them at the door. Apparently this is out of respect for the church and the preacher. The preacher talks about "brotherly love," and "everybody said it was a good sermon." None of the characters, with the possible exception of Huck, realize how ridiculous this is. How could two families caught up in a feud and whose guns lie by the door, ready to be taken up should the need arise, appreciate a sermon about brotherly love? This scene is another poke at organized religion by Twain. People who claim to be adherents of faith murder senselessly, but they still take time out for church.

The two-facedness extends to racism and slavery as well. Nearly two pages are devoted to describing how wonderful the Grangerfords are (Huck would presumably feel the same if he happened to have stayed with the Shepherdsons). After the glowing description Huck talks about their ownership of slaves. It is simply presumed that Southerners of a certain class have slaves. It is not a mark against them and people do not judge them negatively because of it.

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