The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Use evidence to explain how Twain characterizes the Arkansas townspeople

Chapter 21

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Nearly everyone Huck and Jim encounter on the river is an unsavory character or a fake in one way or another.

Sherburn’s murder of the drunk and the subsequent mob scene continue this vein of simultaneous absurdity and seriousness in the novel and contribute to the sense of moral confusion in the town. Although Sherburn’s shooting of the drunk is cold-blooded, his speech to the angry mob is among the most profound meditations on human nature in Huckleberry Finn. Sherburn’s criticisms of the cowardice and despicable behavior of his fellow citizens are accurate, and his eloquence is impressive. Furthermore, much of what he has to say about cowardice applies directly to the townspeople's deplorable behavior, which has put Huck and Jim in peril in the first place.