Chapters 17, 18 and 19
George Jackson, alias Huck, is rescued from the dogs by a man who is
relieved to find that Huck is not a Sheperdson. There is a local feud between the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons and Huck finds himself in the middle of this conflict.
He is taken back to Colonel Grangerford’s house out of hospitality and there they provide clean dry clothes for the bedraggled Huckleberry. They have a son the same age called Buck.
The Grangerford house is large, full of paintings and ornate
decorations. It is humorously tacky bedecked in strange finery. Some of the paintings are by their deceased daughter Emmeline, who had created maudlin pictures concerning people who had died.
The family offers Huck a home for as long as he likes and Huck is impressed
with Colonel Grangerford, as he owns a very large estate with over one hundred slaves. Huck tells them an elaborate story in support of his claim to be an orphan and the Grangerford family takes pity on their guest.
them, Huck learns that the Grangerford family is practically part
of the aristocracy. The other competing aristocracy in town seems
to be the Shepherdsons. The families are feuding, Huck is told,
because of some dispute that happened many years ago. When he asks
what the nature of the dispute was, no one knows.
All of this seems quite ridiculous to Huck.
Soon word reaches the house that Miss Sophia, the beautiful daughter
of the household, has run away to elope with a young man from the
Shepherdson family. This immediately causes all the men of the house
to fetch their guns and prepare for battle. Traveling with Buck,
Huck himself sees the bloodshed first-hand. All of it, however,
makes him sick to his stomach, especially when he sees Buck killed.
Luckily, he meets Jim in the woods, and the two of them run back
towards the river, away from the senseless feuding.
After Huck and Jim have been traveling for a while, they encounter
two men who are running for their lives, being chased by dogs and
men, they say. They ask Huck if they can get away with them, and
Huck agrees. Eventually the men announce to each other and to Huck
and Jim that they are actually a king and duke, who have lost their
kingdoms. Huck doesn't say anything, but he admits to the reader
that he thinks "these liars warn't no kings nor dukes, at all, but
just low-down humbugs and frauds."
Twain is joking at the expense of the Southern Aristocracy depicted by the
Grangerfords and Shepherdsons showing how their society is a mix of fine grand houses and bloodthirsty violence in the woods. The gaudy Grangerford house with its walls festooned with ugly pictures and
decorative fineries shows the lavish lifestyle that they can lead borne on the back of slavery.
These Southern Aristocracy families are portrayed as the equivalent of the
European Royal families.
The Grangerford’s prize possession is a clock ornamented with painted
parrots, dogs and cats that squeak. They award themselves meaningless titles e.g. Colonel.
Twain is here satirizing not only the plantation aristocracy, but also the nineteenth century art, which made a cult out of mourning and producing ludicrous poems and pictures. Beneath this fa'ade of genteelness, there is the bloody feud with the rival clan, the Shepherdsons. No one knows how the feud started or can name any reason why it should continue. Perhaps it is a source of relieving the boredom, but the result is the senseless death of two boys not much more than fourteen years old. Twain illustrates this deeply disturbing side of southern civilization, which is in stark contrast to the unprecedented hospitality shown to Huck when he first arrived at the Grangerfords.
We are first introduced to the characters of Duke and Dauphin who have been
employed in tricking the locals out of their hard-earned money. They will have an important part to play in the future plot.