Emmeline Grangerford Analysis Essay

The Grangerfords

Character Analysis

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.

The incident concerning the Grangerfords occurs in the novel in Chapters 17 and 18. The two central aspects that Twain is appearing to be satirising in this section is the mawkish preoccupation with death as expressed through the character of Emmeline Grangerford and then the hypocrisy of the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons in their blood fued.

Firstly, Emmeline Grangerford, although she is now dead, is presented as a young lady with an unhealthy interest in...

The incident concerning the Grangerfords occurs in the novel in Chapters 17 and 18. The two central aspects that Twain is appearing to be satirising in this section is the mawkish preoccupation with death as expressed through the character of Emmeline Grangerford and then the hypocrisy of the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons in their blood fued.

Firstly, Emmeline Grangerford, although she is now dead, is presented as a young lady with an unhealthy interest in death. It is hilarious the way that we are told she was so interested in death that she was famed for arriving to give her respects even before the undertaker:

Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her "tribute" before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbours said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker - the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme for the dead person's name, which was Whistler.

Her inability to find a rhyme in time for "Whistler" is what drives her to her grave, as she let the undertaker "beat" her to the dead person's family. This is clearly ludicrous and shows Twain at his best poking fun at those with an unhealthy interest in death.

Another aspect that is satirised is the feud between the Grangerfords and the Shepherdons, which has gone on so long that no one remembers what started it. In Chapter 18, Colonel Grangerford is presented as a civilised man, and yet there is an amusing incident when they go to church and everyone takes their guns and keeps them between their knees during the service whilst they listen to a sermon on "brotherly love." Although they talk about it on the way back, it clearly has no impact on them in terms of the rancour between the two different families.

Twain therefore seems to be using the Grangerfords to satirise the hypocrisy of the Southern Aristocracy and the unhealthy interest in death expressed by some women. It would be interesting to find out what he would think of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, who some critics have argued is similar to Emmeline Grangerford!

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