In "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" what do you think Twain is satirizing in his description of Emmeline Grangerford's poetry?Chapters 17-18

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Twain is merciless and thorough in his satire; very little escapes his wry commentary via little Huck Finn.  As he describes poor Emmeline's poetry, it seems that he is making fun of the type of person who feels they are spectacular at poetry, but in reality are quite tactless and untalented at it.  Buck describes her poetry by saying that she "didn't ever stop to think...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...she warn't particular; she could write about anything...just so it was sadful."  Twain is commenting on "poets" whose main purpose in writing is to rhyme, and who give no thought to their poems.  Twain lived during a time of poetic revolution-Individualists such as Walt Whitman were producing poems that broke all old stereotypes of form and rhyme, so Emmeline Grangerford's style was fast becoming outdated.

Twain could also be satirizing the poor taste of her pictures, that were displayed throughout the house.  Also, later it discusses her insane fascination with death, and that she had a poem written for every person that died "before he was cold".  Those weeping poets that display such tactlessness in decoration and in social decency, all sacrificed on the altar of their fascination with morbid poetry, is just screaming to be made fun of by Twain.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is one of the many example Twain uses to satirize flowery, overwrought, Romantic poetry which was so common is Twain's youth. The poem is supposed to be a tribute and elegy to Stephen Dowling Botts. But instead of crying at the end, we are laughing at the irony of his death. Twain uses similar satire when he has Tom and Jim explore the wreck of the "Walter Scott". Walter Scott was the well known romantic writer of "Ivanhoe", a typically romantic, novel set during the Middle Ages. He also uses the same kind of disturbing imagery to satirize the feud between the Grangerford and Stephardsons, which ends with a satiric and tragic take-off on "Romeo and Juliet".

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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