Victor Fischer and Lin Salamo are both members of the Mark Twain Project of The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.
Series : Enriched Classics
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
ENDURING LITERATURE ILLUMINATED BY PRACTICAL SCHOLARSHIP
A nineteenth-century American travels back in time to sixth-century England in this darkly comic social satire.
THIS ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES:
A concise introduction that gives the reader important background information A chronology of the author's life and work A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context An outline of key themes and plot points to guide the reader's own interpretations Detailed explanatory notes Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience
Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.
Mark Twain's book is about a nineteenth century Yankee named Hank who finds himself in Camelot after getting hit on the head. He must immediately fight for his life and find his place in his new world. His resources include his knowledge of the future, an understanding of technology and machinery, and a quick wit.
The plot focuses on Hank's attempts to refine the culture and ideas of this early medieval time. I liked the way that events in the story unfolded because it was refreshingly unpredictable and unique. At one point in time, he is posting billboards on knights for advertisement purposes, and later he is lassoing knights from their saddles in a jousting tournament. Although these things may seem silly and off-the-wall, Twain uses interesting, eye-catching language (for instance, when he is describing the castle on page thirty-three, he says, "There was no gas, there were no candles' a bronzed dish half full of boardinghouse butter with a blazing rag floating in it was the thing that produced what was regarded as light"). His description of simple things is still extremely interesting. He provides a deeper message about politics and the oppression of the people.
Although I sincerely enjoyed the plot and Twain's language, I did not like Hank as a character. As he came into power due to his knowledge and understanding, he became conceited. He liked to think of the world around him as a stage; he would do things in a way that would be the most picturesque, instead of in ways that would most easily help himself and the people around him. As an example, Hank, at one point in the novel, chants in a magical language as he is freeing water from a well with an explosion. Twain seems to be teaching a lesson by pointing out the flaws in Hank, but at times his character was annoying to me because of his showy attitude.
Altogether, the book was very enjoyable. My own dislikes as I read the story were few and minor. The story is very well done and deserves to be read if you are looking for a good classic.
The Boss: Glory Days
Mark Twain touches on multiple themes in his work A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. One of the main themes is how Twain's hero, the "curious stranger" Hank Morgan achieves his goals through the attainment of power. One could argue that the proper source for power, however cliché, is knowledge. As Hank is a manufacturer in an arms factory; he has a working knowledge of all things practical in the world of weapons, and "labor saving machinery" (8). Hank's first resource in obtaining power is through his advanced understanding of how things work. Also Hank's awareness of his place in history, and his use of common sense play an important role in his ability to influence.
Additionally, Hank achieves power through the use of manipulation and exploiting the naivety of the people in the region, as well as the humiliation of Merlin. Hank maintains his power through his enterprising and industrious nature, as well as his savvy ability. He also recognizes the need to maintain power by being visible; he does so by making appearances at the tournaments for two reasons: "a man must not hold himself aloof from the things which his friends and his community have at heart if he would be liked-especially as a statesman." (44). He also wanted to study the tournament to see if he could perfect it.
It's clear that Hank disfavors nobility or inherited power of an individual as a means to rule. Though ironically it's hard to ignore the similarities between Hank's secretive rise to power and Hitler's swift, and stealthy conquering of eastern Europe before WWII. It's important that one recognizes the importance of limiting powers, moreover having a system of checks and balances for any individual, organized institutions, governments, or power structure. Finally it's equally important to try to get to the fundamental reason behind Hank's desire to achieve power, was it for the public good or was it his vanity and need for self-congratulation? Maybe Hank really wants a utopian society where all things are equal for the people of the realm, or maybe he's just out for self -righteous glory.