In the novel The adventures of huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain uses his knowledge of the Mississippi River to write about the ways of life in the Southern Mississippi area before the civil war. In chapters 17-22 of the novel Mark Twain exposes the Hypocrisy of Southern society through false notions of aristocracy, Pious support of religion, and pretend knowledge of academics. He presents these aspects of Southern society through the feuds between The Shepredsons and Grangerfords as well as between Boggs and Sherburn.
The first of these two conflicts presented is that of the Sheperdsons and Grangerfords. Huckleberry is taken into the home of the Grangerfords where he sees much of the hypocrisy of Southern society firsthand, especially through false notions of aristocracy. Huck observes that "[He] hadn't seen no house out in the country before that had so much style."(97) The Grangerfords house, is seen as a grand house to those inside.
This fancy house makes a visitor think of the sophisticated homes in town, however they are still back country people who only view their home as having style for the things inside. In the parlor of this house "there [are] beautiful curtains on the windows, white with pictures painted of castles."(101) The curtains painted with castles give the family a false feeling of being elite. When you think of castles you think of queens and kings and aristocracy. Ironically they think of others who lack the few finer things like curtains with castles on them to be lower class then themselves. These minor details make them think they are above everyone else. Along with this false notion of aristocracy the Grangerfords also possess a false knowledge of academics. When Huck asks one of the Grangerford sons to spell his name, The 13 yeah old son spells huck's false name "G-e-o-r-g-e J-a-x-o-n."(96) He misspells Jackson. The proper spelling is with c-k-s not an x. Earlier the young Grangerford mentioned the he went to school, it is apparent however that he is not as knowledgeable as he thought. The family with their many books and things, think that they are upperclass and very knowledgeable when in fact their son can not spell correctly. As with most typical southern families, the Sheperdsons and Grangerfords are very religious. On sundays both families attend church. When Huck went with Grangerfords he noticed that in both the feuding families,"the men [take] their guns along,"(106) to church. These families are mortal enemies and do not want to risk not taking their guns with them at all times in case they needed to use them against each other. Being hypocritical, after church the families talked about how the sermon "all about brotherly love,"(106) was a good one. The families go to church and agree with sermons about love for your fellow man is good yet they are ready to kill each other. In going to church the Granger fords and Sheperdsons have a false sense that they are good and God loving, when at any other day they would sin and kill each other, they also have false notions of being educated and upperclass. Through these feuding families Twain is able to show the hypocrisy of Southern society.
After his encounter with the two feuding families, Huck comes across another feud, this time it is between two men, Boggs and Sherburn. False images of power are evident in the dispute between them. After Sherburn shoots Boggs, a mob gathers outside of Sherburn's house, ready to lynch him. Colonel Sherburn is not intimidated by them, he feels, "the pitifulness thing out there is a mob...they don't fight with the courage that is born in them,"(142) Compared to these others colonel Sherburn feels above them in his judgement of them as cowards. In actuality Sherburn is no better than this mob out to get him. He claims they are cowards yet his killing of a harmless drunk man shows his hypocritic notion that he is above these other men. The parallel belief in fellowship and murder is another Hypocreaceae. When Boggs was shot those present "put one large Bible under his head,"(139) because they are pious supporters of, those who were around Boggs when he was shot, they tried to save him with Gods help. Possibly hoping God will forgive his sins. These same people however who later gather in to a mob to kill Sherburn. Even though these Southerners consider themselves to be pious supporters of religion, Their actions are contradictory to their beliefs, Sherburn attempts to portray a sense of knowledge as he sites himself intelligent because he "was born and raised in the south, and [he has] lived in the North."(141) He believes these experiences give him knowledge about the common man. The only knowledge he truly has is that of intimidation. He has no true knowledge of these men, he only knows how to intimidate them. Sherburn is very hypocritical. By going to church and owning a few refinements these southerners believe that they are aristocratic and intelligent. They flaunt their education they believe they have and eagerly agree with every Sunday sermon in hopes that others will look up to them as upperclass society. In actuality they do not practice what is preached. Though these two events between Sherburn and Boggs, and the Granger fords and the Sheperdsons, Mark Twain easily portrays the Hypocreaceae of southern societies through their false beliefs of power, their religious support and their idea of knowledge in academics.