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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER 6

Once Pap regains control of himself, he hires a lawyer to sue Judge Thatcher for the money that once belonged to Huck. Although he occasionally catches Huck and beats him for going to school, Huck continues to go, to spite his father. Then one day Pap kidnaps his son and brings him to a log cabin on the Illinois shore, on the other side of the river.

Whenever he's away, Pap keeps Huck locked in the cabin. But when his father is there, they fish and hunt or just hang around doing not much of anything. Except for the imprisonment, Huck finds he likes getting back to his old style of living, and he doesn't want to go back to the widow's home any more.

The trouble is, he can't stay with Pap, either. His father beats him more and more, until Huck decides to work out an escape plan. He finds a saw and cuts a hole in the cabin wall, then covers it up to wait for a chance to get out, while his father is away.

Soon after this, Pap comes back from town in a terrible mood. He starts drinking and complaining about the courts, the widow, and a number of other things. After a few drinks, he goes into a long speech about the government. This speech is important in at least one way-it shows how Twain felt about racial bigotry.

Pap complains about not getting justice from his government, when he has had all the anxiety and expense of raising a son. We know, however, that this isn't true, that Pap has been about as bad a father as anyone can imagine. We know that he isn't the good citizen he claims to be. And we know that his threat to leave the country is laughable, considering what an undesirable character he is.


As he does with Huck, Twain is talking over Pap's head to the reader, and we know how Twain wants us to feel. The same thing is true in the second part of Pap's harangue, in which he berates the government for allowing a black college professor to vote right along with a white man like himself. Twain makes Pap look ridiculous for suggesting that he is superior to the professor, simply because he's white.

Huck listens to all this, waiting for Pap to fall asleep so he can slip out of the cabin. Unfortunately, Pap has a restless night and never completely falls asleep. He has a nightmare, in which he fights off the angel of death. Then he confuses Huck with the angel and starts attacking him. When he finally falls asleep, Huck takes the rifle from the wall and loads it. He sits there quietly, hoping his father won't attack him again.

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