Monday, January 20, 2014

It wouldn't be an English class without mention of Billy Shakes.

It can be argued that Twain’s true moral to Huck Finn is embedded to the educated reader in Chapter 22, “Why the Lynching Bee Failed.”

Twain inserts what seems to be an inappropriately placed soliloquy by Colonel Sherburn after he has shot the town drunk. Shortly after, Huck attends the circus and comments:

     “Then the ringmaster he see how he had been fooled, and he was the sickestnringmaster you ever see, I reckon. 
     Why, it was one his own men! He has got up the joke all out of his own head, and never let on to nobody. 
     Well, I felt sheepish enough to be took in so,” (149)

In addition to the newly introduced characters, the King and the Duke, Twain is begging his audience to make a correlation with non other than Shakespeare. As You Like It produced one of the most paramount phrases in English literature, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Not only is this meant to be a literary reference for the educated person, but to serve as a symbol. The stage is the world, society; there are the players (the Duke and King, the ringmaster) and of course, an audience. The question that remains, where lies universal truth? I believe Twain is trying to demonstrate everything is not what it seems, as Huck has also said from the beginning. The Duke and the King are not Shakespearian actors, the drunken buffoon at the circus was a part of the act all along. The curtain that shields the audience from the stage and it’s players is dangerous line. Col. Sherburn says, 

“The pitfulest 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” (146).

Before the Colonel's rant, Huck notes, "by and by somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched. In about a minute everybody was saying it" (144). This is just an example, to how literally, a mob can be organized quickly without much talk of anything, anything other than the fact is was talked about in the first place. Nineteenth-century America is a mob. A mob that has rendered courage due to self-propelled ideologies. A mob that paradoxically enforces enslavement in the land of freedom. Blind reverence for societal norms is not something we are born with; it is something that is taught and practiced religiously. 

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