Although Mark Twain was from a small river town, namely Hannibal, Missouri, he doesn’t seem to paint a very flattering picture of them in the book Huckleberry Finn. Throughout the book, the two main characters, Huck and Jim, travel downriver coming into contact with these types of small river town people. Twain uses this book to satirize the people of these towns. He shows these people to be dumb, gullible, uneducated, gutless, and inhuman. The following will explain the situations where characters were given these personality flaws.
Twain showed how inhuman and dumb river people could be through his Shepherdson and Grangerford episode. In this episode, the Shepherdsons and Grangerfords were carrying on a feud that had lasted a long time and had taken many lives. The stupidity of this feud is shown when Buck Grangerford had this conversation with Huck: Huck says, “What was the trouble about, Buck?—land?” Buck then responds, “I reckon maybe—I don’t know.” Huck then says, “Well, who done the [first] shooting?—was it a Grangerford or a Shepherdson?” Buck responds, “Laws, how do I know? It was so long ago.”(Twain, 144) Here Twain shows the stupidity of the situation. A person fighting, who ends up getting killed, doesn’t know what he’s fighting about.
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Twain also shows the gullible and uneducated nature of small-town river people. In the novel, Huck and Jim meet up with two con men who call themselves the king and the duke. The king and duke swindle many townspeople out of their money in certain episodes. In one such episode, the king preached of being a reformed pirate. He preached to the small town crowd about how he needed money to return to the sea and help reform other pirates. The king got the gullible people to give in easy through the flattering words he said he would tell the pirates that reformed. These words were, “Don’t you thank me, don’t you give me no credit, it all belongs to them dear people in Pokeville camp-meeting (the small town they were in at the time), natural brothers and benefactors of the race…”(Twain, 175) Through simple flattery these people were taken advantage of. Twain believes this to be the normal behaviour of these small-town people.
Twain also shows the gutless nature of small-town river people in the Sherburn and Boggs episode. Boggs is the town drunk in the small town Huck and Jim are in. Boggs goes through the streets yelling about how Sherburn had swindled him. After many tongue-lashings from Boggs, Sherburn kills him with his pistol. A mob then forms to lynch Sherburn for the murder. At this point, Twain shows his dislike for mobs through Sherburn. Sherburn denounces the mob for being cowards. He tells them that the average man avoids trouble and danger. He says not one of them could face him alone. They instead hide behind their numbers to avoid their personal fears. The mob then dispersed feeling stupid. Through this Twain shows the gutlessness of the average small-town man.
Throughout the novel, Twain shows the personality flaws of small-town river people. By doing this one can draw the conclusion that Twain had no respect for this kind of people. He must have also been ashamed of being associated with these kinds of people. He is born in a small river town. Through this novel, Twain showed small-town river people as what they are. They are the bad seed of America.
Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Puffin Books, 1994.
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