Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 18

By Mark Twain

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Chapter 18

  • Now we learn about Colonel Grangerford, the head of the house and also a fine aristocratic gentleman.
  • In fact, the whole family has good manners (read: they're uptight). The sons Bob and Tom are oldest; next comes Miss Charlotte (who is twenty-five) and her sister Sophia (twenty). Each of them has their own slave, he says.
  • How fancy.
  • The other big aristocratic clan around town is the Shepherdsons. And this town isn't big enough for the both of them.
  • When the boys are outside walking one day, Buck tells Huck to jump into the bushes quickly as a man on horse approaches.
  • The man is young Harney Shepherdson, and Buck greets him by… trying to shoot him with his gun from his convenient hiding place in the bushes.
  • He misses, and the boys run home. At this point Huck asks the incredibly relevant question of why Buck tried to kill this apparently harmless guy.
  • It's a feud.
  • Huck doesn't know what a "feud" is, so Buck explains, adding that it started 30 years ago. Of course, he can't remember why it started, not having been alive, but clearly that's not the point.
  • Recently, Buck says, a Shepherdson shot his fourteen-year-old cousin to death. Of course, they retaliated by killing the Shepherdson.
  • He adds that there isn't a single coward in either family.
  • The next Sunday they all go the church, and the men all bring their guns. How cozy!
  • Once they get home, Miss Sophia (the Grangerford daughter who is twenty) takes Huck aside and asks for a favor. It turns out she left her prayer book at church, and she needs him to back for it.
  • Huck is all, "Sure!" but he knows something's up. He thumbs through the retrieved book and finds a note that says "Half-Past Two."
  • When Sophia gets the book and the note, she's all bubbly and excited, which she then tries to cover up by telling Huck the note was just her bookmark (he promises her he can't read script-writing anyway).
  • A little later, the slave who has been serving Huck asks him to come down to the swamp. Jim is there.
  • Huck is all, "Hey! I forgot you existed!"
  • Jim tells his tale: after their raft was broken up, he swam to shore but hid so that he wouldn't be taken back into slavery. Since then, the Grangerfords' slaves have been helping him out (in terms of food and generally not dying in the swamp).
  • And he even recovered the raft, which wasn't completely destroyed by the steamboat.
  • Huck is all, "OK, great! See you later!" and heads back to the house.
  • But the next day is a day he doesn't care to talk about too much. This doesn't bode well.
  • First off, it turns out that Miss Sophia has run off.
  • We're guessing it was sometime around half-past two, which is a big "Uh-oh" realization for Huck.
  • Worse still, she ran off to marry Harney Shepherdson. It's like Romeo and Juliet, only less poetic.
  • Now the Grangerford men are all packing up their guns to get her back before Harney takes her across the river. Even Buck is gone.
  • Huck, feeling rather guilty, takes off toward the river looking for Buck.
  • In the woods, he finds Buck and his nineteen-year-old cousin Joe in a gunfight with the Shepherdsons.
  • Huck doesn't want any of that, so he climbs a tree for safety.
  • When the scuffle is over, he calls down to Buck, who relates the news to him: his father is dead, and so are his two brothers.
  • Just then, there's another explosion of gunfire, and Huck sees Buck and Joe shot down dead.
  • He doesn't want to tell us any more details, Huck says, because he doesn't like to talk about this and he had enough dreams about it as it is.
  • Feeling as though this is all his fault (because he helped deliver the conspiratorial note to Sophia), Huck cries a bit and, after the attackers are gone, covers up the faces of the two dead bodies.
  • Deciding that these people are wack, Huck runs to Jim, who is mighty glad to see that Huck isn't dead. They take off on the raft back along the Mississippi River.
  • Finally, Huck can relax. There's no home like a raft, he says, where everything is "free and easy" (18.84).

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