Describe how the first part of Chapter 17 in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reveals an example of Huck playing on Buck’s gullibility.
Discuss other examples of the novel’s major themes evident in chapters VXI and XVII.
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In Chapter XVII, the Grangerfords open their home to Huck, who quickly invents a story of woe in his family, ending with him falling off a steamboat. He admires the family, and becomes fast friends with their son, Buck (a foil to Huck: what he might have become had he grown up in different circumstances). Huck has also invented a new name for himself, but as he lies in bed later that night, he realizes he's forgotten it. So, he tricks Buck into revealing it for him:
“Can you spell, Buck?”
“Yes,” he says.
“I bet you can't spell my name,” says I.
“I bet you what you dare I can,” says he.
“All right,” says I, “go ahead.”
“G-e-o-r-g-e J-a-x-o-n—there now,” he says.
“Well,” says I, “you done it, but I didn't think you could. It ain't no slouch of a name to spell—right off without studying.”
I set it down, private, because somebody might want me to spell it next, and so I wanted to be handy with it and rattle it off like I was used to it.
Chapters XVI and XVII encompass much of the satire Twain uses so deftly in the novel. In chapter XVI, Huck is shocked to hear Jim speak about being free, and he agonizes over how the Widow Douglas must feel. Perhaps the most ironic moment comes when Jim talks of freeing his own children, appalling Huck. In fact, Huck believes that the slaveowner has more right to the children than Jim himself, describing them as "children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't ever done me no harm."
The scenes with the Grangerfords aim to satirize the shallow, materialistic culture of the South. Of course, the "feud" tradition is also mocked in later chapters, but these two focus more on the obsession with appearances. In this case, it's manifested in tacky decorations and morbid poetry. The superficial attempt to create culture is what the Grangerfords as a family represent.
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