Study Guide

The Grangerfords in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Grangerfords

We might as well be talking about Scarlett O'Hara, because The Grangerford clan is Twain's example of a traditional aristocratic family living in the pre-Civil War South. They're extremely wealthy: each family member has his or her own personal servant; their house is huge and beautiful; and they own a ton of land with over a hundred slaves (we're thinking they live on a plantation). Check out this description of their house: 

It didn't have an iron latch on the front door, nor a wooden one with a buckskin string, but a brass knob to turn, the same as houses in town. There warn't no bed in the parlor, nor a sign of a bed; but heaps of parlors in towns has beds in them. There was a big fireplace that was bricked on the bottom, and the bricks was kept clean and red by pouring water on them and scrubbing them with another brick; sometimes they wash them over with red water-paint that they call Spanish-brown, same as they do in town. They had big brass dog-irons that could hold up a saw-log. There was a clock on the middle of the mantelpiece, with a picture of a town painted on the bottom half of the glass front, and a round place in the middle of it for the sun, and you could see the pendulum swinging behind it. (17)

Translation? This is one sweet pad. And when Huck stumbles into their lives, the Grangerfords treat him with the utmost hospitality and care… but only after they discern he has nothing to do with "the Shepherdsons."

Oh yeah, that. The Grangerford family may be pleasant and respectable, but they live in a world of fear and hate. They've had a hardcore feud going on with the nearby Shepherdson clan for about thirty years, and each family is intent on killing off the other, one by one, until no one's left standing. Even Buck Grangerford, a boy around Huck's age, has violence on his mind all the time.

It ends, as you can probably guess, tragically. (Buck explains feuds: "by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more feud" [18].) What's up with this family? Well, just like slavery, not all traditions should be respected. The South may have nice houses and great sweet tea, but it also has some nasty history.

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