Discuss the meaning and irony of this quote from chapter 5 spoken by Pap in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"  “I won’t have it. I’ll lay for you, my smarty; and if I catch...

Discuss the meaning and irony of this quote from chapter 5 spoken by Pap in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" 

“I won’t have it. I’ll lay for you, my smarty; and if I catch you about that school I’ll tan you good. First you know you’ll get religion. I never seen such a son.”

Asked on by schnuba

4 Answers | Add Yours

tresvivace's profile pic

tresvivace | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I'm sure you can see the irony and humor in these words if you think about what Pap, a father, is saying to his son.  Most parents want their children to be educated,  but Pap threatens Huck with a beating if he "catches him" going to school.  This is exactly the opposite (and thus, ironic) of what we usually expect parents to say.  We'd expect a parent to threaten punishment if a child skips school, not if he or she goes to school.  Pap heightens the effect by saying "First you know you'll get religion."  Again, many parents would want their children to be religious--not Pap.  He is annoyed with his kid, not for getting into the usual trouble that kids get into, but for going to school and possibly becoming religious--a pretty strange and ironic response for a parent!

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In certain lower socio-economic classes, especially in rural areas, parents--particularly fathers--did not want their sons to rise above them in education or social standing for fear that the son feel himself superior to the parent.  It is this class of cruelly obstinate man that Mark Twain, author of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," satirizes in the above passage.

With Pa's epithet of "smarty" to Huck, there is an indication that this fear exists in him. In addition, his words, "I never seen such a son" indicate that he desires his son to reamain beneath him. An abusive parent, he wishes to dominate his son; certainly, he does not want Huck telling him how better to do things.  And, regarding his prohibition of religious education, as a heavy drinker, Pa does not want any moralizing or attempts at reforming him. One is reminded in this passage of Jerry Cruncher of Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities," who forbids his wife to pray against his lucrative night job of grave-robbing, by yelling at her to stop "flopping."

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The meaning of this quote is that Pap is telling Huck to stop going to school.  He says that he will watch Huck and if he sees Huck going to school he will beat him.

What's ironic here is that Pap is trying to get Huck to stop doing the things that you would think a parent would want their child to do.  Parents are supposed to want their kids to go to school and get educated.  Parents, especially back then, were supposed to want their kids to be religious.  But instead, Pap is trying to scare Huck out of doing these things.

schnuba's profile pic

schnuba | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted on

   How does the refusal of the court to grant custody of Huck to the Widow of Douglas and Judge Thatcher reflect on society?

We’ve answered 318,957 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question