The adults look upon Huck Finn as a disgrace and as a bad influence upon their sons and daughters. The youngsters look at him with envy because he has complete freedom to do whatever he likes. His only living relative is his father (Pap) who is the town drunkard and absent most of the time. When Pap is present, he uses Huck as a punching bag. Huck has no formal education; therefore, he looks to Tom and his book-learning as superior in intelligence to his own common sense. He admires Tom's fanciful notions about how to play games and readily joins in and is content to let Tom be the leader while he himself plays the lesser parts.
Huck's only clothes are the worn-out rags that others have discarded and that seldom fit him. He lives without bathing except in the Mississippi River during warm weather, has no bed to sleep in, and no regular food--only that which he can obtain by his own wits. He does not attend school or church, and he has no regular chores to perform. Because he is completely free to do anything he likes, boys admire him, and all the boys enjoy his company.
Although Tom is the central or most dynamic character in the novel and the one who changes the most, we should not dismiss the change that occurs in Huck Finn. Huck is an outcast, and he conducts himself as an outcast. Until Mr. Jones the Welshman invites and welcomes Huck into his home, Huck has never been invited into anyone's house. He is realistic, knowing that he does not belong. Because he exists on the periphery of society, Huck's character acts as a sort of moral commentator on society--a role he resumes in Twain's great American masterpiece, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Nevertheless, when the outward layers and superficial forms of society are stripped away, the reader sees another dimension of Huck's character revealed. Near the end of the novel he proves his nobility when he risks his own life to protect the Widow Douglas, and unlike the typical boy, he does not want praise or recognition. Nevertheless, Huck is very uncomfortable living in a decent house, sleeping in a good bed, wearing decent clothes and shoes, eating good food, and not being allowed to curse, swear, or smoke.
Huck is centrally involved in the Muff Potter story, the Jackson's Island adventure, and the story of Injun Joe and the treasure. And it is he who stops Injun Joe from mutilating the Widow Douglas. These final actions win the admiration of the community that had earlier spurned him.