Chapter 18 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of the most important in the novel. Huck’s journey through the south takes place in several stages and each stage he learns something about himself and something about the world around him. There are many important lessons that are taught by the Shepherdson family who take Huck in after he leaves the raft. One is a simple lesson that blood is thicker than water; the other is that many of the disputes and conflicts between people are not rational.
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The Shepherdson family are very kind, but they are embroiled in a conflict with another family that goes back 30 years into the past. No one can even remember the exact cause of the animosity between the two families. But it has been bred into each generation to hate without reason. When a daughter runs away with a son from the other family, all hell breaks loose. The two families start a war and shoot and kill one another. Huck comes face to face with a dead Buck, one of the son’s who he was friendly with, and sees how differently his own life might have been had he been brought up in a family that refused to ever let the past go. The family dispute in this chapter is modeled on the dispute between Hattfields and McCoys and ends with similarly tragic consequences. Huck learns that there are some things worth fighting for and other things that really aren’t.
At the end of the chapter, a disgusted and disoriented Huck meets up with Jim again and they head off onto the next adventure, Huck having lost a lot of his innocence about the world.
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