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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 18: Overreaching Donít Pay
Colonel Grangerford is introduced as the head of the family. He is a tall, skinny man who does not tolerate any frivolity. He and his wife demand respect from their children, Bob, Tom, Charlotte, Sophie, and Buck.
Another plantation family, the Shephardsons, are equal to the Grangerfords in every respect, and there is a long standing feud between them. One day when Huck and Buck are out in the woods hunting, they encounter Harvey Shephardson. Buck shoots at him, misses his mark, and hits his hat. Harvey comes after them; although he fires at them, Huck and Buck manage to escape unharmed and reach home safely. Huck is confused at this unnecessary exchange of fire and asks Buck the reason he fired the first shot. Buck replies that they have been involved in a feud with the Shephardsons for almost thirty years, but he does not know the reason it started. Many people have died on both sides of the feud, with the most recent killings taking place a few months earlier.
The next Sunday, the Shephardson and Grangerford families attend church with their guns. The sermon ironically is about brotherly love, and Huck thinks that it is one of the craziest Sundays of his life. After dinner, when everybody is resting, Sophie comes to Huck and asks him if he will go back to church and retrieve the Bible that she has forgotten. Huck agrees to go and find it. He wonders why she is so particular about finding it and decides to shake the Bible. He finds a piece of paper which has half past two written on it. He is not able to make any sense of this message and gives the Bible back to Sophie without saying a word. She asks him if he has opened the Bible. To protect himself, Huck replies no and says that he cannot read properly.
Huck goes towards the river and his servant accompanies him. The servant leads him to a flat piece of land covered with trees and bushes and directs Huck to go further inside. He is surprised to find Jim fast asleep there. When Jim wakes up, he tells Huck that their raft is safe and that he has been getting food and news about Huck from the servant. He has not shown himself earlier, for he does not want to be taken back into slavery.
During the night, Sophie runs away with Harvey Shepardson, triggering off another round of fighting between the families. In the ensuing battle, Buck and most of the Grangerfords die. Huck wishes that he had alerted the Grangerfords to the letter he found in the Bible and prevented the senseless killing. Huck goes and finds Jim, and they leave on the raft; they both think there is no other place more wonderful to be.
In this chapter, Twain brings out the contrast between the uncomplicated, carefree, and happy life on the raft and the feuding, pretentious life on shore. Huck, who is staying with the Grangerfords, goes to church on Sunday and finds that both feuding families attend church with guns between their knees. Huck does not miss the irony of the guns in church or that the sermon is about brotherly love. Neither does Huck miss how silly it is that Buck fires a shot at Harvey Shepardson for no reason. When questioned about the feud, Buck cannot even remember why the feud began, and yet it has lasted for thirty years, with many lives lost. Towards the end of the chapter, Huck is totally disgusted when he learns all the Grangerford men, including his friend Buck, have been murdered by the Shephardsons. He is left with the task of pulling Buckís body from the river. Huck does not comment on his feelings about Buck, but this is one of the most touching scenes in the novel. Through the chapter, Twain takes the opportunity to criticize senseless violence and a ridiculous sense of honor
It is important to notice that while Huck is on land, he again takes a false identity, George Jackson. Through the eyes of this assumed person, he can see society and sharply criticize it. By contrast, the river and the raft seem pure, natural, and wonderful to Huck.
It is also important to notice Jimís devotion to Huck in this chapter. He does not intrude upon Huckís life for a long time, but remains hidden in the woods, receiving news and food from Huckís servant. He could easily have taken the raft and headed down the river on his own. But he is faithful to Huck and dependent upon him for safety. Therefore, he waits patiently for the young boy until he is ready to leave again.