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Narrative Voices in Huck Finn


 Huckleberry Finn provides the narrative voice of Mark Twain's 
novel, and his honest voice combined with his personal vulnerabilities 
reveal the different levels of the Grangerfords' world. Huck is 
without a family: neither the drunken attention of Pap nor the pious 
ministrations of Widow Douglas were desirable allegiance. He stumbles 
upon the Grangerfords in darkness, lost from Jim and the raft. The 
family, after some initial cross-examination, welcomes, feeds and 
rooms Huck with an amiable boy his age. With the light of the next 
morning, Huck estimates "it was a mighty nice family, and a mighty 
nice house, too"(110). This is the first of many compliments Huck 
bestows on the Grangerfords and their possessions. Huck is impressed 
by all of the Grangerfords' belongings and liberally offers 
compliments. The books are piled on the table "perfectly exact"(111), 
the table had a cover made from "beautiful oilcloth"(111), and a book 
was filled with "beautiful stuff and poetry"(111). He even appraises 
the chairs, noting they are "nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly 
sound, too--not bagged down in the middle and busted, like an old 
basket"(111). It is apparent Huck is more familar with busted chairs 
than sound ones, and he appreciates the distinction. 
 Huck is also more familar with flawed families than loving, 
virtuous ones, and he is happy to sing the praises of the people who 
took him in. Col. Grangerford "was a gentleman all over; and so was 
his family"(116). The Colonel was kind, well-mannered, quiet and far 
from frivolish. Everyone wanted to be around him, and he gave Huck 
confidence. Unlike the drunken Pap, the Colonel dressed well, was 
clean-shaven and his face had "not a sign of red in it anywheres" 
(116). Huck admired how the Colonel gently ruled his family with 
hints of a submerged temper. The same temper exists in one of his 
daughters: "she had a look that would make you wilt in your tracks, 
like her father. She was beautiful"(117). Huck does not think 
negatively of the hints of iron in the people he is happy to care for 
and let care for him. He does not ask how three of the Colonels's 
sons died, or why the family brings guns to family picnics. He sees 
these as small facets of a family with "a handsome lot of quality" 
(118). He thinks no more about Jim or the raft, but knows he has 
found a new home, one where he doesn't have to go to school, is 
surrounded by interior and exterior beauty, and most importantly, 
where he feels safe. Huck "liked that family, dead ones and all, and 
warn't going to let anything come between us"(118).
 Huck is a very personable narrator. He tells his story in 
plain language, whether describing the Grangerford's clock or his 
hunting expedition with Buck. It is through his precise, trusting 
eyes that the reader sees the world of the novel. Because Huck is so 
literal, and does not exaggerate experiences like Jim or see a grand, 
false version of reality like Tom Sawyer, the reader gains an 
understanding of the world Mark Twain created, the reader is able to 
catch Twain's jokes and hear his skepticism. The Grangerford's 
furniture, much admired by Huck, is actually comicly tacky. You can 
almost hear Mark Twain laughing over the parrot-flanked clock and the 
curtains with cows and castles painted on them even as Huck oohs and 
ahhs. And Twain pokes fun at the young dead daughter Huck is so drawn 
to. Twain mocks Emmeline as an amateur writer: "She warn't 
particular, she could write about anything you choose to give her to 
write about, just so it was sadful"(114). Yet Twain allows the images 
of Emmeline and the silly clock to deepen in meaning as the chapter 
progresses. Emmeline is realized as an early portent of the 
destruction of Huck's adopted family. The mantel clock was admired by 
Huck not only for its beauty, but because the Grangerfords properly 
valued beauty and "wouldn't took any money for her"(111). Huck 
admired the Grangerfords' principles, and the stake they placed in 
good manners, delicious food, and attractive possessions. But Huck 
realizes in Chapter 18 that whereas the Grangerfords may value a 
hand-painted clock more than money, they put little value on human 
 The third view of the Grangerford's world is provided by Buck 
Grangerford. He is the same age as Huck; he has grown up in a world 
of feuding, family picnics, and Sunday sermon that are appreciated but 
rarely followed. Buck, from when he meets Huck until he is brutally 
murdered, never questions the ways of his family. For the rest of the 
chapter, Buck provides a foil for Huck, showing the more mature Huck 
questioning and judging the world around him. In fact it seems Buck 
does not have the imagination to conceive of a different world. He is 
amazed Huck has never heard of a feud, and surprised by Huck's desire 
to hear the history and the rationale behind it. In Buck 
Grangerford's rambling answers we hear Mark Twain's view of a southern 
feuding family, and after Buck finishes his answer, we watch Huck's 
reaction to the true nature of the Grangerfords. Buck details Twain's 
opinion that a feud is not started or continued by thought. The 
reasons for the feud have been forgotten, and the Grangerfords do not 
hate, but in fact respect, their sworn enemies. They live their lives 
by tradition, and the fact that the feud is a tradition justifies its 
needless, pointless violence. From the dignified Colonel with "a few 
buck-shot in him"(121) to Buck, who is eager for the glory to be 
gained from shooting a Shepherdson in the back, the Grangerfords 
unquestioningly believe in de-valuing human life because it is a 
civilized tradition.
 It is interesting that the only compliment Huck gives to a 
Grangerford after Buck shot at Harney Shepherdson was to Miss Sophia. 
 He admitts that the young women who denied part in any family feud is 
"powerful pretty"(122). But the rosy sheen that had spurred Huck to 
use the word 'beautiful' six times previously in description of the 
Grangerfords has evaporated. He attends church with the family and 
notices all the Grangerfords keep their guns close by. Huck thinks it 
"was pretty ornery preaching"(121), but the feuding patriarchy praises 
the good values listed by the Preacher. The hypocritical mixture of 
guns and sermons, holy talk and bloodthirstiness make it "one of the 
roughest Sundays [Huck] had run across yet"(121). He now questions 
the motives of everyone in the household, including Miss Sophia as she 
send him to the church on an errand. By this point the cynical, 
sarcastic Twain and the disillusioned Huck are of one mind. Huck 
walks among a group of hogs who have sought the coolness of the church 
and notes "most folks don't go to church only when they've got to; but 
a hog is different"(122).
 The narration of Huck's final day with the Grangerfords is 
prefaced by: "I don't want to talk much about the next day"(124). For 
Huck's easy-going fluid dialogue to become stilted and censored, the 
reader knows the young boy has been hurt. A senseless fatal feud is 
not the only tragedy depicted through the events of that day, also 
shown is the heartbreak of a young boy who loses every vestige of the 
hopeful trust he put in a father, brothers and sisters. Huck is 
shocked to hear the fatherless, brotherless Buck complain he hadn't 
managed to kill his sister's lover on an earlier occaison. And then 
from his perch in the tree, Huck hears Buck's murderers "singing out, 
'Kill them, kill them!' It made [Huck] so sick [he] most fell out of 
the tree"(127). He wishes he "hadn't come ashore that night, to see 
such things"(127).
 The end of chapter nineteen, when Huck returns to the raft and 
Jim, almost exactly mirrors the end of chapter eighteen. Both chapter 
conclude with Huck enjoying a good meal with good company in a cool, 
comfortable place. First it is with the Grangerfords in the cool, 
high-ceilinged area in the middle of their double house. "Nothing 
could be better"(115), Huck thought. But only a few pages later the 
raft and Jim provide the same comforts. Nothing had ever sounded so 
good to him as Jim's voice, and Huck felt "mighty free and easy and 

comfortable on [the] raft"(128). . Huck happily slides away from the 
bloody scene with the unorthodox father figure of a runaway slave. 
Huck has realized he does not need a traditional family to make him 
feel safe and happy. He must develop and live by his own integrity, 
not the past decisions of a father or grandfather. This is clearly 
Mark Twain's opinion also, and the reader, full of relief at Huck's 
escape, is aware that the author sent us all into the Grangerfords' 
world to prove just that point.


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