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CHAPTER 5: Pap Starts in on a New Life


Once Huck recovers from the initial shock of seeing his father, he realizes that he is not scared of him anymore. Pap comments on Huck’s ridiculous new clothes. He warns him that he should keep himself away from such “foolishness” as going to school and church, telling Huck that no one in the family could read or write, and they were none the worse for it. He tricks Huck into reading to him; when he succeeds, Pap snatches the book away from him and flings it across the room in anger. Pap then starts a tirade against the widow and her civilized ways. He then gets around to Huck’s money and wants to know how he has become rich. Huck tries to deny he has money, but Pap is not fooled. He vows to go to Judge Thatcher and find out the truth for himself, but before he leaves, he takes the money that Huck has.

The next day, Pap goes to Judge Thatcher’s house in a state of drunkenness, but he does not convince the Judge into giving him Huck’s money. Knowing that Huck is in trouble, Judge Thatcher and Widow Douglas petition the court to allow the Widow to become Huck’s guardian. They are not successful in their efforts, for there is a new judge who believes that families should stay together; this ruling pleases Pap immensely. Pap orders Huck to go and bring some money from the Judge, and Huck obeys. Pap gets drunk, causes problems in town, and is finally jailed for a week.

The new Judge wants to reform Pap when he comes out of jail. He takes him to his home, buys him new clothes, and feeds him. After supper, he lectures him on temperance. Pap pretends to have turned over a new leaf and tells him how ashamed he is of his earlier behavior. Before going to bed, they shake hands and sign a pledge. During the course of the night, Pap climbs down through the window and gets drunk. He comes back around daybreak, falls off the porch, breaks his arm, and is almost frozen to death. The Judge realizes that Pap will probably never be reformed.


In this chapter, Pap has come to town to confirm the rumors he has heard about Huck’s becoming rich. Although Huck denies it, Pap is not fooled and goes over to Judge Thatcher’s to get the money. In the meantime, Widow Douglas, with Judge Thatcher’s help, seeks to become Huck’s legal guardian. The new judge does not want to separate Huck from his father and denies the Widow’s petition. The irony is that the new Judge assumes that Huck will be better off with his natural father than a kind and loving guardian.

Huck does not fret and moan over Pap’s return. In fact, he is delighted to realize that he no longer fears his father and can just accept the state of affairs at face value. He knows, however, that he must sometimes obey Pap, for if he does not, he will be beaten.

The character of Pap is developed within the chapter. He resents that his son is wearing nice clothes and living in comfort at the Widow’s house. He is furious that he is attending school and church, and when Huck reads something to him, Pap snatches the book and flings it across the room. Pap has come back and taken an interest in Huck only because he has heard that his son now has money. Even though Huck denies that he is rich, Pap, in a state of drunkenness, goes to Judge Thatcher and demands Huck’s treasure. Since the Judge has had Huck sign some legal papers about the money, he does not have to give it to Pap.

In spite of his behavior and reputation, the new Judge decides that Huck should be with his father. It is ironic that “proper society” thinks that Huck should be forced to live with a totally corrupt and evil person, just because he is a blood relative. But the Judge is convinced that Pap can be reformed. Pap proves him wrong when he sneaks out the window of the Judge’s house, sells the jacket the Judge has bought for him, gets drunk, and rolls off the porch and breaks his arm.

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