Character Analysis: Colonel Sherburn The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Essay by kwallace8High School, 11th gradeA, February 2003

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In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain's characters play an intricate roll in the literary structure of the book. They come into Huck and Jim's life almost like the changing wind, and changed their characters indefinitely. The character that I found interesting was Colonel Sherburn who is the owner of the largest store in a town that Huck happens upon.

The town Huck ventures into a town that is in the middle of a festival; all the families have their wagons and are eating their dinners in them. During their dinner many begin to drink whiskey very heavily and Huck saw three fights. Then the town drunk, Mr. Boggs ventures into the town for his monthly drink and that every one expected but did not fear what he would do. On man says, "I whisht old Boggs'd threaten me, 'cuz then I'd know I warn't gwyne to die for a thousan' year".

(Twain143) This just goes to show that the town had been through this whole routine before; they even knew whom Boggs was going to "chaw up."

Boggs announced to every one that had now begun to follow him, that he could not waist his time with them because he was there to kill Colonel Sherburn. So, he marched right up to the front Sherburn's store and demanded that he come out and " the man you've swindled". (Twain 143) Boggs then continued to call Sherburn every offensive remark he could think of while even though he was under the influence. Then comes Sherburn, a proud-looking man who carried himself very well, so well that when he stepped out onto the steps of the store the crowd steps back almost in awe. He was about fifty-five and was the best-dressed man in that town, he wore Mark Twains later look of all white. Then he warns Boggs to leave by one o'clock or he will hunt him down and make sure we will not bother him or the town again. Boggs could not let it go so he returned and sure enough Sherburn steps out into the street and shoots him and kills him.

The angry mob goes to Sherburn's house and thought that he ought to be lynched because he murdered Boggs in cold blood. Sherburn doesn't believe they have enough "pluck" to lynch him and he knows that a mob of angry men mean nothing. He says, "Why, a man's safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind-as long as it's day-time and you're not behind him." (Twain 147) He refers to the Ku Klux Klan or a similar organization that was formed in the south and they wear masks when the commit their crimes. He knows that wearing a mask and only going out at night is the only way for them to commit their crimes because they are cowards. A mob is nothing with out a solid leader and Sherburn knows this that is why he doesn't feel threatened by them.

This characters roll in the novel is to show that one single man can stand up to an any mob and be stronger than them if he is confident in what he believes. Sherburn believed that he did the right thing and that is why he doesn't back down even when he is faced up against staggering odds. Huck sees all of these events unfold but doesn't seem troubled by them because right after the mob leaves he goes to the circus. This shows that he is still a child and that the only way to get this out of his mind is to go somewhere were everyone is forever young. Twain often fevers to the idea of forever child hood and he doesn't want his characters to grow up. That is why he places a horrific scene of death next to childlike scene at the circus showing a great contrast. Twain has a brilliant way of keeping the character young but he still lets it grow emotionally.