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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Micah Anderson <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 22 Apr 1995 16:33:58 -0700
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Here is what Smith has to say in "Mark Twain":

"In a passage for Life on the Mississippi but omitted from the book Mark
Twain makes scathing generalizations about the cowardice of mobs,
especially in the South but also in other regions, that closely
parallel Sherburn's speach."


"The image of Sherburn standing on the roof of the porch in front of his
house with the shotgun that is the only weapon in sight has an emlematic
quality. He is a solitary figure, not identified with the townspeople, and
because they are violently hostile to him, and outcast. But he is not weaker
than they, he is stronger. He stands above the mob, looking down on it.
He is "a heap the best dressed man in that town," and he is more intelligent
than his neighbors. The scornful courage with which hhe defies the mob
redeems him from the taint of cowardice implied in his shooting of an
unarmed man who was trying to escape. Many members of the mob he faces
are presumably armed; the shotgun he holds is not the source of his power
but merely a symbol of the personal force with which he dominates the

The Colonel's repeated references to one Buck Harkness, the leader of the
mob, whom he acknowledges to be "half-a-man,". . . Harkness is the
strongest man with whom the townspeople can identify themselves. In his
pride Sherburn chooses isolation, but he demonstrates that he is stronger
Harkness, for the mob, including Harkness, obeys his command to "leave - and
take your half-a-man with you."

Mark Twain, like Huck, was sickened by the brutality he had witnessed in
the society along the river. But he had an adult aggressiveness foreign
to Huck's character. At a certain point he could no longer endure the
anguish of being a passive observer. His imagination sought refuge in the
image of an alternaitve personawho was protected against suffering by being
devoid of pity or guild, yet could denounce the human race for its cowardice
and cruelty, and perhaps even take action against it.

This was pasted from Word, so if it is messed up, blame Microsoft, it was
hrd enough for me to almost format it nice.