The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pap continues to harass Judge Thatcher for Huck’s money, and he harasses Huck for not stopping school. Huck goes to school nevertheless, with even more desire if only to spite Pap. The “law trial” Pap instigates proceeds slowly, so Huck borrows two or three dollars from Judge Thatcher once in a while to give to Pap, so that Huck might avoid a beating. With Huck’s money, Pap gets drunk, and every time he gets drunk he gets rowdy and is jailed. Huck thinks this “was right in his line.”
Even though Huck is adaptable to his surroundings, he is more rebellious than anything: it’s exactly because Pap tells him not to go to school that Huck insists on going to school. Huck pushes back against any rigid structure that is imposed on him. Pap, on the other hand, leads a repetitious life, getting drunk, getting, jailed, getting drunk, etc.
Themes
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
When Pap loiters around the Widow’s estate too much, the Widow reprimands him. Pap vows to show her who Huck’s boss is, so one day he kidnaps Huck and takes him to an isolated log hut in the woods near the river. Pap is with Huck at all times, so that Huck has no chance for escape. The two live on what fish they catch and what game they shoot with Pap’s (probably stolen) gun. Sometimes Pap locks Huck up to go down to the store to trade fish and game for whiskey. Huck eventually becomes accustomed to his new living situation, despite the beatings.
The cabin that Pap takes Huck to is a symbol for imprisonment, a place where Huck’s freedom is physically limited. Huck’s imprisonment there is analogous to Jim’s bondage: both are socio-economically motivated (Pap wants Huck’s money as a slaveholder wants to profit from holding his slave), and both involve oppression and violence. Characteristically, Huck adapts to life in the cabin, because he has no other reasonable option.
Themes
Society and Hypocrisy Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Huck comes to like the “lazy and jolly” life he leads with Pap, the smoking and fishing he does without the burden of study. His nice clothes become dirty and tattered. Huck even wonders how he ever adapted to the lifestyle endorsed by the Widow, what with its manners and rules. Though Huck had stopped cussing over the course of his “sivilizing,” he resumes because Pap doesn’t object.
Huck lives in the present, unbound by the past: he lives whatever life he thinks is currently best, and has no nostalgia for his previous ways of life. One consequence of this, though, is that Huck is something of a slow learner: it’s because he doesn’t change readily in response to past experiences that Huck is so slow to accept Jim not as a black slave inferior to whites but as an equal human being deserving of freedom.
Themes
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Growing Up Theme Icon
However, Pap eventually begins to beat Huck so often and so severely that Huck, covered with welts, can no longer stand the abuse. Pap also begins to leave Huck alone too often, locking him in the cabin, such that Huck is often “dreadful lonesome.” Scared one time that Pap has drowned and that he might never be freed from the cabin, Huck begins to look for ways to escape. There is no way out of the cabin, though, so Huck looks for tools to make an escape. He finds a rusty old saw which he carefully begins to use an old saw he finds to remove a section from a log of the cabin, big enough for him to squeeze through. Soon after he begins, Huck hears Pap’s gun go off in the woods outside. Huck hides all evidence of his work, just before Pap returns home.
It is only when a way of life becomes untenable for Huck that he seeks to change it. Here, for example, it is only after living with Pap becomes unsafe that Huck seeks means of escaping from Pap, which he could have done anytime in the past but neglected to do. Huck formulates a very practical plan for his escape, resourceful and efficient. This plan is contrasted later with Tom’s plan to liberate Jim from the Phelps Farm, which is maybe more stylish than Huck’s, but much more romantic, less practical, and more dangerous.
Themes
Freedom Theme Icon
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Pap is characteristically in a bad mood when he comes in. He rants that his lawsuit to get Huck’s money is proceeding too slowly, and that it looks as though the Widow and Judge Thatcher may be successful in another bid to win custody of Huck. This shakes Huck up “considerable,” because Huck doesn’t want to return to being “sivilized” at this point. Pap then begins to cuss violently, saying that he’d like to see the Widow try to get custody of Huck, threatening to take Huck to an even more isolated location. Huck is worried, but consoles himself that Pap won’t get the chance to take him away, because Huck will have escaped by then. Pap tells Huck to load their skiff (a kind of boat) with supplies required for a journey, prompting Huck to further plan his escape.
That Huck wants to live neither with the Widow, where he is not free enough, nor with Pap, where he is too free, reveals that freedom for Huck can be either deficient or excessive, and that the ideal degree of freedom is somewhere between those two extremes, between living only by rigid rules or flouting such rules altogether. However, at this point, Huck has not yet learned which rules he should live by, and it is education in this regard that constitutes a major part of his maturation.
Themes
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Freedom Theme Icon
After Huck loads the skiff, he and Pap sit down to dinner, during which Pap becomes drunk. He begins to rant against the government for taking Huck from his flesh-and-blood father, just as Huck is becoming useful to him, and also for supporting Judge Thatcher in keeping Huck’s money. Pap then goes on to denounce the government for allowing a man of mixed race to become a wealthy, educated college professor with the right to vote, because Pap doesn’t think a person of mixed race should have opportunities and rights as good as those of white people. Indeed, he thinks the professor should be put up at a slave auction and sold.
Pap thinks of himself as a victim of bad government policies, but in doing so he neglects to take into account the people who have tried to help him salvage his life, like the new judge, nor does he accept responsibility for his bad decisions. Pap is also resentful of all people more successful than he is; a vicious racist, he doesn’t believe a black man should be more materially successful than him, and is resentful of successful black people in general.
Themes
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As he rants, Pap wanders around the cabin, eventually tripping on a tub of salt pork, which makes him cuss even more. He hops around the cabin, kicks the tub with his boot that has “a couple of his toes leaking out of the front end,” howls even more, and ends up rolling around in the dirt. After supper, Pap gets his jug of whiskey, and Huck predicts that he will be very drunk by the end of the night, at which point Huck could make his escape. But Pap stays up late thrashing and moaning, and Huck himself, exhausted, falls asleep. He wakes to Pap screaming that snakes are crawling up his legs. Pap hops around the cabin some more till he falls down, and, after rolling violently on the floor, lies still, saying soon thereafter that the dead are after him. Pap rises and crawls, begging the dead to leave him alone, and starts to cry.
Pap’s self-destructiveness is exemplified in this scene: he hurts himself, but, rather than tend to his injury, he, rather hypocritically, only exacerbates it by lashing out and, in lashing out, hurting himself even more This resembles how he refuses the new judge’s help in being reformed and, falling back into drunkenness, literally hurts himself after falling out of his window. As for Pap’s hallucinations, the first may draw on Pap’s religious beliefs. In the Bible, the snake is a figure for the Devil and sin, which Pap is haunted by. Pap’s hallucination of the dead touching him foreshadows his own death by drowning chapters later.
Themes
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Religion and Superstition Theme Icon
After some time passes, Pap jumps up “looking wild,” and he goes after Huck with a knife, calling him the Angel of Death. Huck tells Pap that he’s not the Angel of Death, but Pap only laughs and continues to chase Huck. At one point, Pap grabs Huck by the back of his jacket. Huck thinks that Pap is just about to kill him, and so he slides out of his jacket and succeeds in saving himself. Pap soon drops down with his back against the door to rest, guarding the knife under him, and falls asleep. Huck grabs Pap’s gun, loads it, and points it at the sleeping Pap, waiting, as time slowly drags on, for him to wake up.
Pap is clearly not in his right mind at this point, drunk and despairing as he is, so much so that he thinks Huck is the Angel of Death. An irony here is that, though Pap’s hallucination pertains to a Christian image, Pap is acting most unlike a Christian: he does not accept death tranquilly, with the promise of redemption and eternal life in Heaven in mind, and he is viciously violent toward Huck.
Themes
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