English 11, Period 7
December 15, 2009
The Clothes Make the Man: Colonel Grangerford and the Education of His Sons in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be read as a series of smaller stories tied together by themes of racism and hypocrisy perceived by Mark Twain in late nineteenth century Southern culture. One of these smaller stories takes place at the Grangerford plantation, where the reader is introduced to Colonel Grangerford and his three sons: Buck, Bob and Tom. The Grangerford family serves as an allegory meant to show Southern readers both the horror and the futility of hatred and violence. TSIn the Grangerford home, the feud with the Shepherdsons is kept alive by the authority of Colonel Grangerford. As the father of a typically male-dominated Southern family, he sets the moral compass for them. CDHuck tells the reader that “every day of [the colonel’s] life he put on a clean shirt and a full suit from head to foot made out of linen so white it hurt your eyes to look at it.” (p. 140) CMColonel Grangerford’s “clean” shirt projects the idea that he is a person of the highest moral quality, even though he advocates racism, vengeance, violence and ignorance under his own roof. Huck voices the collective opinion of Southern society when he decides that the Colonel “was a gentleman all over” (p. 140) based almost entirely on the man’s possessions. CSTwain uses the Colonel to show that white Southerners judge the moral quality of a man by his superficial appearance rather than focusing on his character. TSThe oldest two sons, Bob and Tom Grangerford, symbolize the pattern by which the family ideology is passed from generation to generation. CDBoth are described as “dressed in white linen from head to foot, like the old gentleman.” (p. 141) CMThe Colonel imprints them with his belief system from the outside in. It is his rules and his understanding of the world that...