Chapters 4–8 Summary and Analysis
Three or four months pass, and it is winter. Huck has been attending school and has learned to read and write “just a little” and to recite the multiplication table “up to six times seven is thirty-five” (which, of course, it is not). He has become used to attending school and living with the Widow and Miss Watson, and does not mind the changes in his life as much as he used to.
One day, however, Huck spills salt at breakfast and has no opportunity to throw a pinch of it over his shoulder to ward off bad luck. This worries him, and his concern is exacerbated when he sees the tracks of familiar boots in the snow. He races to Judge Thatcher’s house and asks the judge to take his entire $6,000 fortune, together with all interest. The judge does not understand what he means. However, he eventually realizes what is worrying Huck (which is not, at this stage, spelled out for the reader) and agrees to buy all his property for a dollar. The two of them sign a contract to this effect. When Huck goes up to his room that night he finds, as expected, that his father, Pap, is there.
Pap is about fifty years old and looks it. He has lank, greasy hair, his face is “fish-belly white,” and he is dressed in rags. He begins by observing that Huck obviously thinks he is “a good deal of a big bug,” with his fine clothes and his education. He is angry that Huck has learned to read and tells him to stop attending school. He then says that he has heard Huck is rich, and he demands the money. Huck replies that he has no money except a dollar—Pap can ask Judge Thatcher. Pap takes the dollar and goes off to buy whiskey.
The next day, Pap goes to Judge Thatcher’s house and harangues him. Judge Thatcher and the Widow Douglas try to obtain legal guardianship of Huck, but they fail, and Pap reasserts his authority over his son.
Pap continues to make a nuisance of himself. He pursues Judge Thatcher in the courts for Huck’s money and tries to prevent Huck from going to school. Huck, who had not much enjoyed school before, now continues to attend in order to spite Pap. Eventually, Pap catches Huck and takes him three miles up the river, where he keeps him prisoner in an old log cabin on the Illinois side.
Huck becomes resigned to his new life with Pap and actually starts to enjoy it. He spends his time smoking and fishing and never has to learn anything. Apart from the occasional beatings he receives from Pap, life is quite comfortable. However, as these beatings grow more frequent, and Pap sometimes leaves Huck locked in the cabin for days at a time, he begins to think about escape, though he does not want to return to the Widow Douglas, either. One night, Pap becomes very drunk on whiskey. His behavior becomes violent and erratic, and he threatens to kill Huck but then goes to sleep. Huck takes Pap’s gun and points it at him as he waits for his father to wake up.
The next thing Huck knows, it is morning and Pap is standing over him, having forgotten the events of the previous night. Huck excuses the gun by saying that someone was trying to get into the cabin and goes out to walk along the riverbank. He sees a canoe drifting past, secures it, and hides it, with the idea of making his escape in it later.
When Pap goes out for the night, Huck saws a hole in the cabin and escapes, loading the canoe up with bacon, whiskey, coffee, sugar, ammunition, and other supplies. He then fakes his own death, smashing in the door of the cabin with an axe and spreading the blood of a wild pig he has killed, along with his own hair. He drags a sack of rocks to the riverbank to make it look as though his body has been dumped in the river. Then he makes his escape in the canoe.
Huck knows that his plan has been successful when he sees a ferryboat going along the river carrying various people he knows and firing cannon over the water in an effort to bring his body to the surface. He surmises that this means his ruse...
(The entire section is 1,283 words.)