The story begins in fictional St. Petersburg, Missouri, on the shore of the Mississippi River sometime in the later decades prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War. Huckleberry "Huck" Finn and his friend, Thomas "Tom" Sawyer, have each come into a considerable sum of money as a result of their earlier adventures. Huck explains how he is placed under the guardianship of the Widow Douglas, who, together with her stringent sister, Miss Watson, are attempting to civilize him and teach him religion. Finding civilized life confining, his spirits are raised somewhat when Tom Sawyer helps him to escape one night past Miss Watson's slave Jim, to meet up with Tom's gang of self-proclaimed "robbers." Just as the gang's activities begin to bore Huck, he is suddenly interrupted by the reappearance of his shiftless father, "Pap," an abusive alcoholic. Knowing that Pap would only spend the money on alcohol, Huck is successful in preventing Pap from acquiring his fortune; however, Pap gains legal custody of Huck and leaves town with him.