Why is it significant that Joanna eats in the kitchen in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The setting of chapter 26 in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is the home of the Wilks family during a dinner where Huck and the impostors who called themselves “the duke” and “the king” were guests. Huck ate in the kitchen with Joanna, who was the youngest of the sisters. He noted that she had a cleft lip, for which he nicknamed her “the hare lip girl”. Although the narrative does not indicate anything strange about Huck and Joanna eating in the kitchen what could be significant is that:

a)      Huck and Joanna were the youngest diners. The special places at the table were often reserved for adult guests by order of precedence.

b)      The family was embarrassed to have a child with a visible facial flaw, hence sent her off to eat in the kitchen alone. However, this is unlikely because the sisters treated Joanna quite lovingly.

c)       The family wanted the younger diners to get acquainted, so they separated them from the elder diners.

d)      It was a good technique to add to the story because, from this acquaintance, Huck developed affection for the Wilks that motivated him to protect the sisters from the con men.

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