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Based on how episodes are portrayed in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how do you...

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stephjlamb | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 27, 2012 at 1:00 AM via web

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Based on how episodes are portrayed in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, how do you think Twain feels about "honor" as defined by the Grangerfords and Huck?

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 28, 2012 at 2:48 AM (Answer #1)

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The Grangerfords defined honor as meaning the proper observation of the rituals of their way of life, thereby preserving the respectability of the family. Honor began with the morning greeting extended to the Colonel and his wife:

all the family got up out of their chairs and give them good-day, and didn't set down again till they had set down. Then Tom and Bob...mixed a glass of bitters and handed it to him...they bowed and said 'Our duty to you, sir, and madam;' and they bowed the least bit in the world and said thank you, and so they drank, all three,...and we drank to the old people too.

Huck is enormously impressed by all the bowing and drinking, even if he doesn't understand how it accomplishes anything other than appearing very refined. Twain agreed with Huck that the rituals were basically meaningless, more effective in allowing people to fool themselves than in actually demonstrating any specific quality.

In dealing with the Shepherdsons, honor meant fighting like a gentleman and to the death. The Colonel's reaction after hearing Buck's account of the encounter with Harney combined approval of his son's reaction - "the old gentleman's eyes blazed a minute-t'was pleasure, mainly, I judged" - and concern for the family's reputation as word of the incident spread. "I don't like that shooting from behind a bush. Why didn't you step into the road, my boy?"

Huck is unable to understand the reasoning behind the continuation of the feud, even after Buck explains its history. Huck sees the revenge killings on both sides as the tragedies and pointless battles that they are.

Twain expresses his disgust with those unable or unwilling to negotiate and resolve differences without fighting, those who continue disagreements long after the initial problem is forgotten, in the dismay and sorrow Huck experiences as he watches Buck and Joe attempt to be honorable and defend themselves against their attackers.

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