The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
Contributed by Cinderella Domino
Chapter 3

Huck’s life appears to have taken on a routine that is satisfactory to him. He is attending school quite regularly and doesn’t mind living with the Widow Douglas. From Jim, the slave, he is learning about magic. Through him, he even finds out about his future.

Unexpectedly, Huck’s pap appears in town looking unkempt and drunk. He surprises Huck when he climbs into his bedroom window demanding money from him. He becomes furious when he finds out that his son is going to school and knows how to read. It is quite apparent that he is afraid that Huck will know more than he does.

When pap is brought in front of the judge, he promises to stay sober and live properly. The judge, being new in town, believes him but he too realizes quite shortly that the old man is not sincere.

To everyone’s surprise, pap kidnaps Huck and takes him deep into the woods. At first Huck enjoys his new, rough life and the freedom that he feels in the wilderness. One night, however, his father got drunk and started to chase him around the hut with a knife in hand. Fortunately for Huck he stumbles and falls asleep. Huck breathes a sigh of relief and begins to make plans for his escape.


Here we learn something about Pap, who is a horrible wreck of a man with a disheveled exterior hiding an even uglier interior. He uses his son as a means of getting drink and is totally opposed to Huck trying to better himself.

He is deeply selfish and he is desperate to try and separate Huck from any chance to become literate and successful.  It is clear that he is an alcoholic for after a few days without drink in the care of the new Judge, he has a fit and relapses into a drunker stupor.

Twain does not try to encourage any sympathy for this man and uses him to poke fun at the new Judge for trying to help him. Indirectly Twain may be trying to criticize the temperance movement much prevalent in the nineteenth century.

Twain makes an interesting use of Pap’s character in order to make statements about racial discrimination.  You will note that Pap speaks angrily against a bi-racial black visitor and he possesses a completely irrational hatred of the man.  Twain seems to be showing just what he thinks of this race hatred by having it voiced by the revolting character of Pap.

The author also makes another profound statement when Jim sees that Pap has two angels either side of him, one good and one evil, one white and one black, interestingly, the inspiration for many a cartoon scene.  The inference of course is that evil is black and good is white. This convention is used in everyday references, for instance, a person’s dark side, the most important exception of course in the literary world is Melville’s Moby Dick where the evil whale is white.  However, Twain is clearly identifying white with badness by reference to the color of Pap’s skin. Pap’s evil manifests itself later in the book.

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