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In Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, why did Emmeline Grangerford die?  

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bferrando | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 10, 2012 at 9:20 AM via web

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In Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, why did Emmeline Grangerford die?

 

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 10, 2012 at 10:13 AM (Answer #1)

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In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Emmeline Grangerford is a young poet who makes a habit of writing verse about people who have recently died. Her poem about a boy who drowns by falling down a well, for instance, concludes with the following touching stanza:

They got him out and emptied him;
Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
In the realms of the good and great.

Huck continues by commenting that

If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like that before she was fourteen, there ain't no telling what she could a done by and by.  Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing.  She didn't ever have to stop to think.  He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn't find anything to rhyme with it would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn't particular; she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her "tribute" before he was cold.  She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker—the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme for the dead person's name, which was Whistler.  She warn't ever the same after that; she never complained, but she kinder pined away and did not live long.

Emily, in other words, eventually dies as a result of sadness over her inability to find a word that would rhyme with “Whistler.” In fact, even today no word seems to measure up to this demanding test. The only word suggested by rhyming dictionaries are such bogus pretenders as “kissler, missler, rissler, shissle, whisler, and wissler," which sound impressively like the members of a high-powered law firm but which would have been of no help to poor Emmeline.  No wonder the poor girl’s spirit itself went

to sport aloft
In the realms of the good and great.

Who could blame it? Trying to think of a rhyme for "Whistler" would have killed almost anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

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