Huck Finn Essay

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Michael Pruess Real Men Mark Twain's book, Huck Finn, utilizes Twain's knowledge of the United States of America to present a believable tale set along a realistically-portrayed Mississippi river. In one of the towns Huck visits after leaving his home, a mob forms to Colonel Sherburn, a man who has just committed murder. Huck follows the mob to Sherburn's house and witnesses Sherburn addressing the mob condescendingly, informing them that they lack the guts to lynch him. He explains that this is because none of them are true men, that "a man goes in the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back." Sherburn paints a clear picture of the conduct expected of real men, and uses it to show those who would see him dead that they are incapable of killing him. A man—an individual—is the one who leads the mob. Sherburn's words shake his assailants and they disperse, their cowardice seemingly vindicating him. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a contemporary of Mark Twain, famously said that "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." Emerson was a leader of the American Transcendentalist movement and was a staunch supporter of individualism. His words suit his character and sound very nice, but while he might be able to explain his ideas to inhabitants of Brook Farm, they don't relate at all to Huck Finn. As Emerson's definition can't be applied to Twain's book, and Sherburn's definition of a "man" is an integral part of his hypocritical nature, I would contend that neither definition is valid. Emerson was a brilliant scholar, but his definition of a "man" is not valid in the context of Huck Finn. In a real-world context, where each living human is in fact an individual, Emerson's words may be quoted meaningfully. Because Huck Finn is a work of fiction based upon a real place, and because its attempt at realism mandates the use of stereotypes, none of its characters can

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