The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Pdf fan
Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
A cold-blooded killer, Sherburn guns down the vocal but harmless drunkard Boggs for almost no reason at all, all of which Huck witnesses in horror. When a lynch mob sets out to avenge Boggs’ death, Sherburn calmly scorns the mob as being full of cowards and absolutely impotent. He is right: the mob, humiliated, disperses.

Colonel Sherburn Quotes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Sherburn or refer to Colonel Sherburn. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn published in 1994.
Chapter 22 Quotes

“The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what an army is—a mob; they don’t fight with courage that’s born in them, but with courage that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the head of it, is beneath pitifulness.”

Related Characters: Colonel Sherburn (speaker)
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Colonel Sherburn guns down the drunkard Boggs for almost no reason at all, and a mob set on lynching him marches on his house. However, Sherburn meets them head-on and delivers a demoralizing speech, excerpted here, which humiliates and breaks up the mob.

The mob that organizes against Sherburn is another image in the novel for what a bad society looks like. It draws its strength from numbers and not from anything more, like virtue. Its passions are violent but fickle, and at last impotent to bring about anything good. Moreover, the mob has no leadership, no center around which it organizes itself, and this in Sherburn's eyes makes it worse than an army, which at least has some effective people making decisions and plans.

Sherburn gives an insightful critique of the mob in this speech and, by extension, of society. But Sherburn himself is a bad man, a cold-blooded killer. He is freer than Pap from social structures and the herd mentality, but he is just as villainous, the kind of man that Huck might become if he lives a life of violence. Sherburn represents the dangers of freedom, and of what happens when free people follow not their hearts but their antisocial impulses.


Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Adventures of Huck Finn LitChart as a printable PDF.
The adventures of huckleberry finn.pdf.medium

Colonel Sherburn Character Timeline in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Sherburn appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 21
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...that Boggs is good-natured and harmless. Boggs begins to shout for a man called Colonel Sherburn, whom he says he will kill. People laugh and talk, that is, until Sherburn steps... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Boggs continues to carry on about Sherburn. Townspeople try to shut him up, telling him he only has fifteen minutes till one... (full context)
Chapter 22
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...mob tromps through town, scaring women and children as they go, till they arrive at Sherburn’s home, where they tear down his fence. Sherburn calmly steps out onto the roof above... (full context)