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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Mark Twain

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How did Pap influence Huck's personality? 

Pap's influence on Huck's personality is negative. He teaches him to steal and to believe in the morality of slavery. In contrast, Jim teaches Huck that one should be a good person, while Mary Jane leads Huck to question his society's treatment of slaves.

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Huck's father is a scoundrel and an abusive parent whose actions and ideas produce a certain negative influence on his son. Nonetheless, some of his sordid actions are cause for Huck to recognize the results of Pa's wrongdoing and to reject such behavior, along with a few unchristian beliefs. In contrast to his "pap," the runaway slave named Jim demonstrates to Huck the worthiness of being good and charitable. Because Jim's positive influence over Huck contrasts so sharply with Huck's father, Huck reevaluates some of his beliefs.

The cruelty that Pap shows Huck is also contrasted with the kindness that the Widow Douglas extends to the boy. When, for instance, Pap surprises his son by being in his room one night because he has learned of Huck's fortune, Pap demands the money. Luckily for Huck, he anticipated his father's intentions sometime before this, so he rushed to Judge Thatcher, who arranged protection for Huck's money. Further, Pap derogates Huck for having learned to read; he orders Huck to "stop putting on frills" and trying to be better than him. Then, Pap threatens Huck with a beating if he sees him at the school. "I'll tan you good," he tells the boy. "First you know you'll get religion, too. I never see such a son" (Ch.5). Such threats make Huck want to attend school all the more: "I didn't want to go to school much, before, but I reckoned I'd go now to spite pap" (Ch.6).

There are some lessons that Pap has taught Huck which he retains. One of these pertains to stealing:

Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if you was meaning to pay them back some time; but the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it (Ch.12).

Huck does steal when he is hungry or when he needs something. In another instance, Huck does not mind that the King and the Duke, two con men, take advantage of people with their various exploits. However, when these "rapscallions" dissemble as relatives of the Wilks family and scheme to steal an inheritance of $6,000 in property and gold from the nieces of a deceased uncle who had no will, Huck becomes morally outraged. He feels “ornery” and “low down” for not telling the nieces about the nefarious intentions of the king. Consequently, he decides to retrieve the money from the two swindlers no matter what happens. The pretty Mary Jane has influenced Huck in another way, as well. Having witnessed how kind she is to her to her slaves, Huck begins to question the concept of slavery, especially because he has grown to love Jim, who has acted like a real father toward Huck, advising Huck and providing him with genuine affection and devotion. Finally, Huck completely rejects his father's and his society's attitudes about slavery as he refuses to send his friend Jim back to Miss Watson. 

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Pap, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by

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byMark Twain, is almost the worst father one can imagine. He is an ignorant, abusive, racist alcoholic. However, even though Pap is an unsympathetic character and Huck a generally sympathetic protagonist, Pap did have a significant effect on the formation of Huck's personality.

First, lacking a stable and nurturing family life, Huck never really internalized many forms of social codes of his period. In some ways this was good. Rather than absorbing the racism of his surroundings, he lets his innate sympathy with Jim guide his actions rather than being guided by racial prejudice.

Second, Huck is only marginally literate. Rather than encouraging Huck to buckle down and get a good education, Pap, himself illiterate, after kidnapping Huck says:

"You've put on considerable many frills since I been away… 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?" 

Like his father, Huck is uncomfortable with the trappings of civilization, and dislikes the attempts of Widow Douglas and Miss Watson to ensure that he goes to school and that he learns some rudiments of good manners and personal hygiene. 

Huck's rebellious nature and resistance to convention, which in many ways follow his father's character, lead to his ability to enjoy his adventures on the river and to survive them. Pap's father, though, also encourages Huck to enjoy smoking and swearing, and generally to live for the moment rather than plan for the future. While this might sound like fun while Huck is a teenager, this isn't really a path that leads to a happy adult life.

Although Huck is not (at this point in his life) an addict like his father, he still does have a somewhat similar character in craving excitement and adventure and lacking self-discipline.

Finally, Pap's casual cruelty helps form the good side of Huck's character. Having been beaten and starved himself, he has sympathy for Jim and other outsiders in his society. 

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