Pap is an abusive drunkard who channels his anger at the world into violence against his son. His main motivations in the book are jealousy, greed, and alcoholism. He feels intensely jealous of Huck for his fortune, and he wants access to that money so that he can fuel his drinking problem. When Huck refuses him, Pap turns to violence to get his way. As a minor character in the book, Pap does not undergo any significant transformation. Only the intensity of his violence seems to change, and the increase of intensity eventually leads to his death. Pap first shows up in the book as a bad memory. At the beginning of the book Huck hasn’t seen Pap in over a year, and he explains that his father’s absence “was comfortable” because it meant an end to his abuse: “He used to always whale me when he was sober and could get his hands on me.” But when Pap appears in person two chapters later, the old abusiveness comes with him. After reclaiming guardianship of Huck, Pap takes his son away and locks him in a cabin.
Although Huck’s father only appears in the novel for a short while, he plays a significant role. For one thing, Pap helps jumpstart the book’s action. By locking his son up in the cabin, Pap sets the stage for Huck to escape from St. Petersburg and set off on his adventure. More importantly, however, Pap’s presence in the novel symbolizes much of what Huck detests about society. If the religious upbringing he gets from Widow Douglas represents the best (though stifling) part of “sivilization,” then the violent and traumatic experience with Pap represents the worst. Ironically, however, Huck’s distaste for society represents an important similarity between him and his father. Pap’s longtime poverty has contributed to his own deep-seated dissatisfaction with social life. Though he may not recognize it, Huck inherits his father’s dissatisfaction, and he also risks inheriting the corrosive anger that comes with it if he can’t find an appropriate release valve. Pap releases his anger through violence. By contrast, Huck releases his through adventure and the quest for freedom.