In "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" what lessons does the Grangerford/Shepherdson feud teach Huck and us?What is ironic about their attending church?

Expert Answers
mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this novel, Huck is usually a pretty laid-back kid who is great and going with the flow and rolling with the punches(to use a couple of cliches).  He gets upset about things every once in a while, but gets over them quickly and moves on with his life.  However, the feud between the two families really leaves him upset.  He gets caught in a huge battle, a battle that he feels responsible for because of his role in the love affair between Miss Sophia and Harney.  Usually quite verbose and talkative, Huck states this of the battle:  "I don't want to talk much about the next day.  I reckon I'll cut it pretty short."  Later he says,

"I ain't a-going to tell all that happened-it would make me sick again if I was to do that.  I wished I hadn't ever come ashore that night to see such things.  I ain't ever going to get shut of them-lots of times I dream about them."

Huck learns a great lesson about the reality of violence.  In the beginning of the book we see him and Tom Sawyer's "gang" planning all sorts of heists and murders, like it is a barrel of giggle and kicks.  They discuss murder like it's a game.  In this chapter, Huck is thrown right into the middle of the real thing, and learns quickly just how serious it is.  Twain, usually humorous and sardonic in his writing, takes a break for a bit to let Huck be really disturbed by the fighting that is going on.  The feud itself reflects a real-life Hatfield/McCoy feud that was highly publicized and glorified during Twain's time; this chapter could be his way of saying that people's lives are not something to glorify or morbidly dwell on, as the public was in his time.  We too can learn a lesson from it, that reading about violence or watching it in movies, or even playing at it in games, is nothing like the real thing, and we should not take death so lightly.

charcunning eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons offer up LOTS of irony.

First, no one even knows what the feud is about! No one can remember! Buck thinks that maybe his grandpa would remember, but he's not even sure of that! This feud can serve to teach us that 1-there are better ways of solving issues than through violence and that 2-be careful in getting so wrapped up in something that you forget what the reason is behind your actions and it teaches Huck that although people can look and act one way in one situation, they can be heartless and cruel in another.

The church scene is doubly ironic--the two feuding families attend church together---and they are carrying guns...definitely NOT what you'd expect from someone in a place of worship. Secondly, the sermon is on BROTHERLY LOVE. After the sermon, both sides of the feud comment on what a great sermon it was...and then proceed to kill each other!

This whole thing, to me, is Twain's commentary on HYPOCRISY! In particular, religious hypocrites--the people that go to church on Sunday and then break every commandment for the rest of the week!

Read the study guide:
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question