Homework Help

Who is Colonel Sherburn, and what aspect of human nature does he criticize?

user profile pic

route61shady | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 14, 2008 at 4:14 PM via web

dislike 1 like

Who is Colonel Sherburn, and what aspect of human nature does he criticize?

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

yaday | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 14, 2008 at 11:35 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Colonel Sherburn is a store-owner and the richest man in town. He is insulted  by a drunk man named Boggs in the "Arkansaw" chapter (ch. 22).  In regards to the mob speech, he describes humanity as being cowardly because of the mob mentality it has.  The lynching mob is seen as sheep-like because it has a one-track mind: people see an opportunity to take justice into their own hands but never really question the motive/reason.  The wave metaphor is used to parallel this concept.  Lastly, the crowd is easily swayed by Sherburn's speech on cowardice.     

user profile pic

melissa1106 | TA , Grade 11 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted June 28, 2014 at 8:19 PM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

Sheburn was a very wealthy man in a town that Huck Finn finds himself in. He critques that the fact that all humans are "cowards" and that they are ignorant for ganging up in a mob. The mob is easily convinced by what he says and leaves him alone. 

user profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 11, 2014 at 2:53 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

In Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Colonel Sherburn is a store owner who guns down a local drunk named Boggs who has ridden into town threatening to kill the colonel and insulting and taunting him until Sherburn appears on the street.  After Sherburn kills Boggs, a number of the town's men decide to confront the store owner, leading to one of the novel's seminal events.  In Chapter 22, the lynch mob arrives at Colonel Sherburn's home expecting to take matters into its own hands.  Sherburn steps out onto his porch to confront the angry mob, and instantly takes command of the situation, declaring:

“The idea of you lynching anybody! It’s amusing. The idea of you
thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a man! Because you’re brave enough to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along here, did that make you think you had grit enough to lay your hands on a man? Why, a man’s safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind—as long as it’s daytime and you’re not behind him."

Labeling the mob a bunch of cowards, Sherburn continues to lecture the group on its inability to stand on its own and to exercise any degree of courage in the face of true adversity.  The anonymity of a mob provides each individual courage he doesn't possess on his own.  As Twain has this rare figure of courage and dignity state: 

"The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what an army is—a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers."

Huck and Jim's journey has been filled with examples of man at his vindictive worst.  In Colonel Sherburn, they view a man of stature and foreboding who will not back down.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes