Who is Emmeline Grangerford?

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Emmeline Grangerford is a dead poet and painter whose work Huck observes in chapter 17. Her work is very morbid and is likely meant to parody that of other artists of the time, particularly Julia A. Moore.

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Emmeline Grangerford was a young poet and a painter. Huck Finn is introduced to her work in chapter 17. Although she died in childhood sometime before the events of this story, Huck is struck by her work, which he notices while staying in the Grangerford house.

Emmeline's works are very macabre in nature. They seem to be preoccupied with death and are exceedingly sentimental. All her creations seem to be about dead and dying people and creatures. Apparently, whenever anybody in the area died, she would be there in an instant to compose one of her "tributes." After viewing some of Emmeline's paintings and reading her poetry, Huck comes to the conclusion that she wasted her talents on sadness:

she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about just so it was sadful.

Mark Twain likely included Emmeline Grangerford as a parody of the gothic artists of his era. Twain often chaffed at the popularity of morbid themes in American art and used this episode to poke fun at it. Although he likely had Edgar Allen Poe, G. Washington Childs, and Bloodgood H. Cutter in mind, he is clearly making references to Julia A. Moore, whom he considered to be a hack of a writer. Yet, she was very popular during the 1870s and 1880s.

Moore wrote numerous poems with the intention of being maudlin. However, her lack of mastery over style and verse regularly rendered her writings to be unintentionally humorous. Twain uses the character of Emmeline as a way to further expose the ridiculousness of Moore and her genre.

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