The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 22 - Summary & Analysis

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SUMMARY

      The angry mob, in its fury, swarms outside the Col's house and starts smashing the fence down. As the mob advances, Col. Sherburn confronts them with his characteristic poise - self-assurance that radiates trepidation among people. He chastises them for being cowards who have conceived the ridiculous idea of lynching him' on the instigation of a "half-man" named Buck Harness. He makes them see the mirror and trivializes them as "half men" and "cowards" and shoos them away. Hearing this, the crowd disperses as soon as it had gathered.

      Huck goes on to watch the circus. Though he has money - the twenty- dollar note that he had earned from the slave-traders, he decides to save it for any other exigency. He loiters around a little bit until the watchmen walk past without suspecting him. Then he slides into the circus from below the tent. He finds it splendid.

      The frauds' "Shakesperean Revival turns out to be a fiasco, with none of the spectators staying till the end. The Duke, refusing to be daunted, comes up with another tactic to attract the audience again. He draws a few big handbills with the luring words - LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ALLOWED - in bold rubric. His aim is to entice people into believing that they can look forward to some splendid adult performance. Having done this, he exudes confidence at the prospective success of his strategy as he is confident about the fact that general public is nothing more than fools.

The angry mob, in its fury, swarms outside the Col's house and starts smashing the fence down. As the mob advances, Col. Sherburn confronts them with his characteristic poise - self-assurance that radiates trepidation among people. He chastises them for being cowards who have conceived the ridiculous idea of lynching him' on the instigation of a "half-man" named Buck Harness. He makes them see the mirror and trivializes them as "half men" and "cowards" and shoos them away. Hearing this, the crowd disperses as soon as it had gathered.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 22

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

      Col. Sherburn's speech exposes the reality behind the facade of bravery. Via this tirade, delivered by Sherburn, Twain lucidly communicates his view of not only the society of Arkansas but also those of the entire world. People are brave enough just "to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along here", and do not have enough grit and determination to fight for the right cause.

      Gruesome acts go unpunished but a harmless act of abusing Somebody, in an inebriated state, results in murder. Law doesn't punish murderers because "they're afraid the man's friends will shoot them in the back, in the dark". The mob, that is full of "half men", is addressed most offensively when they are ordered to "droop your tails and go home and crawl in a hole".

      This episode is Twain's invective against mob-mentality. The mob is almost a character in its own right. It lacks the power of individual reasoning and prudent judgment and does everything as a knee-jerk reaction. A mob is not brave enough to "want to come". They simply come because The average man don't like trouble and danger. YOU don't like trouble and danger. But if only HALF a man-like Buck Harkness, there-shouts Lynch him! lynch him!' you're afraid to back down-afraid you'll be found out to be what you are-COWARDS". A mob cannot boast of courage that is inborn. It is "borrowed from their mass". Such a revelation almost makes us wriggle with shame as the attack is directed towards humanity in is entirety.

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