On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior

Chapter Four
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
By Mark Twain

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

In one of the most famous scenes of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus faces down a lynch mob whose collective (as Karen says) “false bravery” is only undone by the innocence of Scout.  Chapter Four of Karen Swallow Prior’s On Reading Well examines a similar scene from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  

As Karen wrote

The novel’s most explicit passage about courage occurs in an abrupt and startling scene that, on the surface, appears to be just one more in a series of adventures with an endless stream of characters briefly introduced into the story and never heard from again. Yet the seriousness of the scene contrasts so sharply with the comedy that characterizes the rest of the story that it stands out in significance. While traveling with two con men that Huck and Jim (Miss Watson’s escaped slave) have, unfortunately, fallen in with, the group stops in a rough-and-tumble town. There a drunken vagabond randomly insults one of the townspeople, and the insulted man simply and suddenly shoots the drunk dead. When the townspeople decide to take justice into their own hands and descend upon the home of the murderer, he emerges from his house, eyes the mob slowly, and issues a startlingly serious and eloquent speech.

What real-life examples of courage have you seen?

On Reading Well


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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life