Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Family

By Mark Twain

Family

Chapter 1
Huckleberry Finn

The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. (1.3)

We'll say she didn't mean any harm. In fact, it sounds a lot like the widow is really getting fond of Huck—like she feels like a mother to him. But Huck just can't get comfortable in the role of a son.

Chapter 2

"Yes, he's got a father, but you can't never find him these days. He used to lay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard, but he hain't been seen in these parts for a year or more." (2.13)

When is a father no longer a father? Well, maybe when he's abandoned his son for a year after lying around drunk with the hogs. We're pretty sure that throws your parental role into question.

Chapter 3
Huckleberry Finn

Pap he hadn't been seen for more than a year, and that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to see him no more. He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me; though I used to take to the woods most of the time when he was around. (3.3)

It's hard to tell because of Huck's casual tone, but this is pretty grim. A son who feels better off without his father? No wonder Huck doesn't feel comfortable in society. The #1 societal bond, between families, is nothing but a horrorshow for him.

Chapter 5
Huckleberry Finn

The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me away from him and let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow had to quit on the business. (5.30)

In general, we'd agree with the new judge: families should stay together. But there isn't one single redeeming thing about Pap and, for once, we'd wish the government would just interfere already.

Pap

"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he. "You've put on considerable many frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done with you. You're educated, too, they say—can read and write. You think you're better'n your father, now, don't you, because he can't? I'LL take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut'n foolishness, hey?—who told you you could?" (5.6)

Think parents are supposed to want the best for their children? Think again. To Pap, children are supposed to be just as miserable, drunk, racist, and uneducated as their parents. Anything else would be "hifalut'n."

Chapter 6
Pap

"Call this a govment! why, just look at it and see what it's like. Here's the law a-standing ready to take a man's son away from him—a man's own son, which he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and all the expense of raising. Yes, just as that man has got that son raised at last, and ready to go to work and begin to do suthin' for HIM and give him a rest, the law up and goes for him. And they call THAT govment! (6.10)

Pap wants all of the rights of fatherhood (having a son to look after him in his old age) without any of the responsibilities (actually caring for and educating that son). But we really can't imagine that Pap went to too much anxiety and expense to raise Huck.

Chapter 17
Huckleberry Finn

They all asked me questions, and I told them how pap and me and all the family was living on a little farm down at the bottom of Arkansaw, and my sister Mary Ann run off and got married and never was heard of no more, and Bill went to hunt them and he warn't heard of no more, and Tom and Mort died, and then there warn't nobody but just me and pap left, and he was just trimmed down to nothing, on account of his troubles; so when he died I took what there was left, because the farm didn't belong to us, and started up the river, deck passage, and fell overboard; and that was how I come to be here. So they said I could have a home there as long as I wanted it. (17.47)

This is one of Huck's incredibly elaborate fake family stories. Do you think he'd actually like to have a family like this? Or is it just a convenient fiction to get him out of a tight spot?

Chapter 32
Silas and Sally Phelps

She grabbed me and hugged me tight; and then gripped me by both hands and shook and shook; and the tears come in her eyes, and run down over; and she couldn't seem to hug and shake enough, and kept saying, "You don't look as much like your mother as I reckoned you would; but law sakes, I don't care for that, I'm so glad to see you! Dear, dear, it does seem like I could eat you up! Children, it's your cousin Tom!—tell him howdy." (32.10)

Aunt Sally is so excited to see a relative that she completely ignores the fact that Huck looks nothing like her family. This is one of the good things about the South—but we can't help remembering that the same people hardly think twice about separating a black family.

Chapter 41
Huckleberry Finn

When we got home Aunt Sally was that glad to see me she laughed and cried both, and hugged me, and give me one of them lickings of hern that don't amount to shucks, and said she'd serve Sid the same when he come. (41.21)

Let's get this straight: Pap's beating are bad, obviously. But "lickings" can also be a way to show love? Let's just chalk this up to "things change."