The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons Character Analysis

Two noble, pious, aristocratic families that absurdly, bloodily feud with one another despite mutual respect. Huck stays with the Grangerfords after becoming separated from Jim, but becomes embroiled in their feud after he accidentally enables a Grangerford girl to elope with a Shepherdson boy. Huck is confused by how such good, brave people could be involved in such devastating madness.

The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons Quotes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quotes below are all either spoken by The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons or refer to The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. 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 18 Quotes

“Did you want to kill [the Shepherdson], Buck?”
“Well, I bet I did.”
“What did he do to you?”
“Him? He never done nothing to me.”
“Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?”
“Why nothing—only it’s on account of the feud.”

Related Characters: Huckleberry Finn (speaker), The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

One day while Huck and Buck Grangerford are hunting, Harney Shepherdson rides by and Buck tries to shoot him. In this dialogue, Huck attempts to understand Buck's motives.

The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons have a long-standing feud. Buck is not clear on how the feud began, nor does he have anything other than an abstract hatred for the Shepherdson's. He himself doesn't seem wholly committed to the feud yet. "I bet I did [want to kill Harney]" sounds faintly noncommittal. Moreover, the explanation he gives for shooting at Harney relies on absurdly circular reasoning. It reduces to: There's a feud because there's a feud, which of course doesn't explain anything. But this is a vicious circle, because as soon as Buck engages in the feud, the Shepherdsons have good reason to shoot at him, and he in turn has good reason to shoot right back. The feud, which falls out of thin air into Buck's lap, can only end in bloodshed. This is an enormous waste of life.

In a sense, the Grangerford-Shepherdson feud is a metaphor for how society can corrupt people who are essentially good. Being raised on hatred makes one, of course, hateful, just as being raised in a racist society makes one racist. The novel points out the tragic absurdity of such situations, and it offers an alternative to such negative socialization through Huck's education, which is based not on passively received notions of what is right or wrong but rather on personal experience and the call of one's own heart.

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The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons Character Timeline in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The timeline below shows where the character The Grangerfords and Shepherdsons appears in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 17
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...says that he’s George Jackson, only a boy. The man asks if Huck knows the Shepherdsons. Huck says that he does not, but the man remains skeptical. Nevertheless, he invites Huck... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The Grangerfords are welcoming and friendly and provide Huck with a meal, clothes, and a place to... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Huck admires the Grangerford’s home, many of the features of which, like the brass doorknob and the brick-bottomed fireplace,... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Also hanging on the walls are pictures painted by a member of the Grangerford family, Emmeline, a little girl who died young, all of which are dark in theme... (full context)
Chapter 18
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Huck regards Mr. Grangerford, who is the least frivolous of men, as being a gentleman, well-bred, dignified, a joy,... (full context)
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Huck observes that many slaves serve the Grangerford family, each Grangerford being tended to by one slave. Huck himself has a slave to... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Huck learns that there is another aristocratic family living nearby: the Shepherdsons, as proud and grand as the Grangerfords. One day, as Huck and Buck are hunting,... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
...families fight till everybody’s dead, and then there’s no more feud. Buck explains that many Grangerfords and Shepherdsons have died in the feud, and many have been wounded. He explains how,... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
Huck goes to church with the Grangerfords and listens to a sermon about brotherly love, which he finds tiring but which the... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
The next day, Huck notices he is alone in the Grangerford’s house. He goes outside, where Jack tells him that Miss Sophia has run away to... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
The Shepherdsons ride back and shoot at Buck and the other Grangerford boy. Wounded, the two boys... (full context)
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...them. Huck is nervous until he and Jim drift two miles away from where the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons live, at which point he feels safe, and he and Jim share a... (full context)