In the long Wilks episode in "Huck Finn", what is Twain satirizing?  In Huck's description of the Grangerfords house and family, what are the chief targets of Twain's satire

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Wilks' episode, Twain is again satirizing hypocrisy in the characters of the duke and the dauphin. The fact that they can step into a family and pretend to be relatives speaks to the ignorance of common society. Those who are professionals (the doctor, the lawyer) are ridiculed for not believing the con artists' story. The emphasis on physical beauty in women, rather than intellectual strength is also emphasized. Huck refers to one sister as "hare-lip", and she is forced to do chores and serve the others. Yet she is the only sister who suspects Huck's story and grills him mercilessly to get the truth.

Huck’s lengthy description of the Grangerford house, decorated with gaudy furnishings and the pen and crayon drawings of Emmeline Grangerford, is a satire against morbid art and poor taste in decorating. Twain’s satire is punctuated at the end of the chapter with an example of Emmeline’s repulsive, sentimental poetry. Buck does not need to convince us that Emmeline seldom thought about her verse but would, instead, just “slap down a line,” then scratch it if it didn’t rhyme and “slap down another one.” In Huck’s description of Colonel Grangerford, Twain satirizes aristocratic gentlemen for being well-born, and “that’s worth as much in a man as it is in a horse.” The 30-year-old feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons is further criticism of aristocratic pretensions of respectability. This is particularly true when the feuding families sit in church together, their guns “between their knees,” listening to a sermon on brotherly love and agreeing later that it was, indeed, a good sermon. Ironically, there is a controlled sense of respectability in Colonel Grangerford’s gentle reprimand to Buck for “shooting from behind a bush,” rather than bravely stepping out into the road to defend the family honor. The colonel’s expectations for a 13-year-old boy make his values seem even more incongruous. Twain also brings out the ridiculousness of the feud when he has Buck describe it in the clear, straightforward language of a 13-year-old boy who doesn’t even know why they are feuding.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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