As it happens in the many outstanding works of literature, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn comprises of several themes developed around a central plot. In the case of Mark Twain’s novel, it is a story of a young boy, Huck, and an escaped slave, Jim with the description of their moral, ethical, and human development during thrilling adventures down the Mississippi River that brings them into many conflicts with greater society. The big society however is not Huck’s major concern, it’s his father who himself is an outsider and a rebel. Pap is the one who makes
Huck’s life much more complicated than all the rest people in the world.
Although being a father is an important role and a huge responsibility in normal families, Pap shows no such concern toward Huck. The only thing he cares about is getting drunk every day until he doesn’t remember himself. Pap is a contrasting figure to Jim who is described in the book as the agent of goodness and honesty. Huck’s father is the example of all worlds’ immorality and filthiness. Even his looks with “long and tangled and greasy hair and rags for clothes” he reminds Huck of his poverty. Pap behaves in a very cruel way with Huck, the boy is often beaten up and physically abused. Not only physical disturbance is an issue between father and son here, Pap is also against Huck’s education. He resents Huck’s ability to read and write, and be emerged in religious studies. The world of Widow Douglas, who agreed to take care of Huck, in Pap’s sick mind, is a dangerous world. He forces Huck to stop his education thus to return to his roots as Pap puts it. He wants his son to solely belong to himself as a thing not a human being, to do only what he orders him. He even keeps him in the forest in the cabin away from the outside world and people who were willing to help, he is locked there like an animal.
Under such abusive eye of Pap, Huck attempts to romanticize his life free from the intrusions of a judgmental society and outside civilization. Away from the enforced rules of school and town, Huck is “free” to exist according to Pap’s rules, which are liquor and theft. In reality of Huck’s existence under Pap, is one where the presence of Pap’s fist and racism saturate all of Huck’s life —where Huck is abused and subject to the poison Pap spills onto the whole society. Pap is criticizing society for trying to take away his son, but at the same time does nothing to protect Huck, he only makes him suffer and feel unwelcome in this life.
Pap shows his inner darkness and inability to love his only son in the passage when he tries to get Huck’s reward money. Pap lies to the judge that he is a “new and changed man” with different life and his eyes are turned to God now. The next morning, however, judge sees him lying dead drunk on his porch with a broken arm back to his old ways. This episode certainly doesn’t depict any fatherly love except Pap’s love for spirits and easy money earned by so much hated society. He would be an almost a comic figure in the novel, if his existence didn’t have such a tragic impact on Huck’s poor heart.
The irony of the novel is multileveled and one of its illustrations is depicted in Pap’s monologue, when he condemns a nation who would allow a black person to vote. This is an unthinkable nonsense to him and yet he has no right to even say things like that. He treats his own son worth than a slave, a morally dead human claims to know what other people should or should not do.
Often Pap gets “too handy with his hick’ry,” and Huck desires to live that way no more. He decides to escape with a slave Jim, who will become a carrying father for Huck during their flee down the river. On their way in the episode described in chapter 9, when they come upon the floating frame-house, they discover a dead man among the various items. After Jim looks over the body, he tells Huck to come in the house, but “doan’ look at his face—because it’s too gashly.” Jim’s gesture here is similar to that of a protective parent. In Chapter the Last, Jim explains that the dead man aboard the house was Pap, and Huck realizes that Pap will not bother or abuse him ever again. For a young boy to have such cruel, as it may seem, toward his dead father is not a common thing. They are totally justified, though, because of the way Pap treated Huck throughout his childhood, because of the absence of love and care which Pap never showed. Pap was like a heavy weight which Huck had to carry everywhere on his small feeble body, but now the weight was gone forever and Huck could breathe without fearing of being slapped for it.
Although Huck has a biological father during almost the whole novel, a reader is convinced that Jim is the one who plays that role much better that Pap. After he tells Huck about his father’s dead body, he helps Huck to come to a right decision on freeing Jim. By doing such he as if inherits his newly found father’s kindness and worthy qualities that his real father never had. This transformation in Huck’s mind and life as a whole declares his rebirth. He is a new person with new moral views and new family.