The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 5 Summary

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Huck Finn knows one indisputable fact: Pap is back. And with Pap comes a whole world of trouble for poor Huck. This lesson will focus on chapter 5 of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.


Everyone thought Pap Finn, Huckleberry Finn's long-absent and abusive father, was dead. Everyone, that is, but Huck. Huck didn't believe the body in the river belonged to Pap. And when Huck saw boot prints in the snow with a familiar nail cross in the left heel, Huck knew his reprieve from his father was at an end. But Huck wasn't without resources. Immediately, Huck signed over his money to Judge Thatcher so it would be safe from Pap. Then, the superstitious Huck headed over to visit Jim, Miss Watson's slave, rumored to know magic. Jim told Huck that his future will be one of joy and sadness, and warned him to stay away from water. Huck, puzzled by the fortune, returned home to the Widow Douglas's house to find Pap waiting for him.

Pap Returns

Huck is startled when he first sees Pap, but he quickly realizes that he isn't really frightened of his father. Though Pap used to beat Huck all the time, he now seems more of a figure of pity to the boy -- at first.

Pap is a rough guy and he looks rough. He's fifty years old, with long tangled black hair that hangs over his face. His skin is white like the underside of a fish, and his clothes are nothing more than rags. Two toes hang out of the front of his boot.

Right away, Pap demands to know why Huck thinks he's better than his father. His dad makes fun of his clothes and has found out about Huck's progress at school. He orders Huck to drop out of school and says he'll 'learn' the Widow to meddle in other people's business. He tears up a picture Huck had earned for doing well in class.

Mark Twain : Les Aventures de Huck Finn, illustrations by Achille Sirouy 1886

Up To His Old Tricks

Then Pap asks about the money. Huck says--truthfully, since he signed it over to the Judge--that he hasn't got anything. Pap doesn't believe him and says he'll go to the judge and collect Huck's money. Then he makes Huck turn out his pockets. Huck has nothing but the dollar he got from the Judge, and Pap takes that and buys whiskey.

The next day, Pap does as he threatened and goes to see the Judge. The judge refuses to give Pap the money, and Pap swears he'll get it somehow.

Having enough of Pap already, the Judge and the Widow go to the courts and try to get custody of Huck. But the judge who decides the case is new and doesn't know Pap's history. He says he tries never to separate families, and Huck is forced to live with Pap.

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