Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 6: Pap Struggles with the Death Angel
Pap again goes to court, this time to force Judge Thatcher to give up Huck’s money. While the court takes time to decide the matter, Pap continues to get drunk, abuse people, and cause a general commotion; as a result, he is repeatedly jailed. When he is out of jail, he catches Huck and beats him for not skipping school; but each time Huck manages to escape and attend school. Although he does not particularly enjoy going to school, Huck decides to go regularly to spite his father.
Pap hangs around the Widow’s house in order to catch Huck. She warns him to keep away, or she will cause trouble. Pap is infuriated and decides that he is going to show everybody that he owns Huck. He watches out for the boy, catches him, and takes him to an old hut three miles away. To prevent Huck from running away, Pap keeps close watch over him through the day and locks him up during the nights. When the widow finds out where Pap is holding Huck, she sends a man to get him, but he is driven away by Pap.
Huck does not really mind staying with his father, except for the regular beatings he receives for no reason. Once again he can curse, smoke, and get dirty. He can also hunt, fish, and swim whenever he wants. After a time, however, Pap’s beatings become unbearable. Huck is covered with welts. His father also locks him up in the cabin and goes away for long periods. Huck, feeling lonely and fearful, believes his father may never return and he will die locked in the cabin. He starts hunting for some kind of tool that he can use to help him escape; he finds an old rusty saw, hidden in the roof. Whenever his father is gone and he is not locked up, Huck works on his escape route. He cuts off a section of plank in the back wall to make a hole big enough for him to crawl out.
Pap comes back in a bad mood, complaining about his lawyer. Pap knows the chances of his ever getting Huck’s money are pretty slim. If Pap should win the case, the people would demand a retrial, and the widow would become Huck’s legal guardian. This piece of news makes Huck miserable, for he has no desire of going back to the widow and her “regular” life. While bringing in the groceries, he begins to make definite plans for his escape from the cabin. Lost in his thoughts, he loses track of time and is jolted out of his daydreams when Pap yells for him.
When Huck is busy making supper, Pap begins to drink and curse the government, the law, the Widow, and Judge Thatcher. Huck decides to run away that same night if Pap gets dead drunk and falls asleep. Although Huck tries his best to keep awake, he falls asleep himself. He is awakened by Pap, who is screaming that snakes are crawling all over him. He later grabs a knife, calls Huck an “Angel of Death,” and tries to kill him. Huck manages to escape. Tired of running around the cabin, Pap decides to rest for a moment in order to catch his breath before killing Huck; fortunately he passes out. Huck picks up Pap’s gun and waits for his next move.
Except for the beatings and the lock-ups, Huck, who adapts easily, adjusts to life in the cabin with his father. In truth, after awhile, he finds life in the wilderness more comfortable than living under the Widow’s constraints; but Huck wants to escape from his father’s cruelty, which means running away from the cabin. The practical and sensible Huck carefully plans his escape. He locates a rusty saw and uses it to cut a hole in the back wall of the cabin. He works while his father is away and waits for the appropriate time. One night, Pap, in a fit of drunkenness, tries to murder Huck. He knows he must leave soon to protect his own life.
In this chapter, the drunken monologue of Pap against the government gives the reader a perfect example of white frontier talk about slavery. He cannot believe there are laws to protect black people when he, as a white man, is denied the opportunity to use his own son’s money. Twain is poking fun at Pap’s prejudice and superior racial attitude.