k anybody -until he found himself involved with

k anybody -until he found himself involved with

k Twain (1835 – 1910)A Connecticut YankeeIn King Arthur’s Courtby Mark Twain (1835 -1910)Type of Work:Social satireSettingEngland; 6th-century, during the reignOf King ArthurPrincipal CharactersHank Morgan, the Connecticut Yankee “Boss”;in reality a 19th-century mechanicKing Arthur, King of EnglandMerlin, Arthur’s court magicianSandy, Hank’s sixth-century wifeStory OverveiwHank Morgan, born in Hartford, Connecticut,was head superintendent at a vast arms factory.

There he had the meansto create anything – guns, revolvers, cannons, boilers, engines, and allsorts of labor-saving machinery. If there wasn’t already a quick, newfangledway to do a thing, Hank could easily invent one. Supervising more thana thousand men had also taught Hank how to handle just about anybody -until he found himself involved with a bully named Hercules in a “misunderstandingconducted with crowbars,” and was knocked out by a “crusher” to the sideof his head.

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When he came to, Hank was sitting under an oak tree. A mandecked out in polished armor appeared and thundered toward confused, groggyHank. After confronting him rudely, the man claimed Hank as his prisonerand took him to his court in the land of Camelot. Hank had been capturedby Sir Kay of King Arthur’s Roundtable. He was presented before a courtled by Merlin, the braggart magician who had helped Arthur in his riseto the throne, and it was quickly decreed that Hank Morgan should die atmid-day on June twenty-first, the year of our Lord, 528. Certainly, KingArthur’s England was not the gallant world depicted in Fairy Tales, buta cruel, feudalistic society; and it looked as though Morgan would be acasualty of this barbaric order.

But, resourceful Yankee that he was, Hankremembered that on June 21, A.D. 528 a total eclipse of the sun had supposedlyoccurred. If indeed he was a nineteenth-century traveler lost in the daysof chivalry, he could use this knowledge to his advantage.

The appointed day came and Hank was unshackledand taken out of his dungeon cell to be burned at the stake. While fagotswere meticulously piled around him, Hank stood calmly, his hands pointingtoward the sun. Then he solemnly warned the on ookers that he was aboutto smother the whole world in the dead blackness of midnight.

At that moment,the eclipse began. As the earth was covered in shadows, the people turnedin terror to Hank, who then extracted a promise from King Arthur: Hankdemanded to be appointed the King’s perpetual minister and chief executive.The clever Yankee supplanted Merlin as Arthur’s advisor, and the magicianwas cast into prison.Though he was now the second most powerfulperson in the kingdom, Hank missed the little conveniences he had leftbehind in modern life, such as soap, matches and candles.

The castle wallswere barren and cold; there was no looking glass and no glass in the windows;there were no books, pens, paper or ink. And worst of all, no sugar, coffee,tea or tobacco were anywhere to be found in the castle. If Hank’s new lifewas going to be bearable, he would have to invent, contrive, create, andreorganize things – the very tasks he liked most.Fearing interference from the church, Hankset out in secret to improve, not only his own living standards, but alsothe dreary lot of the commoners in Arthur’s feudal kingdom. In a shorttime he had set up telegraph and telephone services. He scoured the landfor bright young men to train as journalists and mechanics. Workmen inhis newly built factories fabricated guns, cannons, soap, and almost anyhandy item imaginable.

Known as “The Boss,” Hank also established schools,but he was most proud of his “West Point” – a military and naval academy.Even though Hank was high in command, and feared as a powerful magicianbesides’, he was not of noble birth, and the nobility looked down on him.This wasn’t particularly bothersome to Hank, however, since he held themin the same low regard.Three years passed. One day, Merlin, nowreleased from prison and disguised as Sir Sagramor, challenged Hank toa duel. To prepare himself for the encounter, the Yankee decided to goon a quest. He donned a set of uncomfortable armor and off he went throughthe countryside.

In the wake of his journey he encountered freemen, noblemen,and hermits. He spent many hours thinking about how to banish oppressionfrom the land and restore rights to Camelot’s citizens, without “disobliginganybody.”The Boss, however, also experienced numerouscomical episodes. He once turned aside a half-dozen charging knights byblowing a column of pipe smoke from beneath his armored face shield. Helater managed to rescue a talkative young maiden, Alisande, from some unknowndanger.

“Sandy” prattled endlessly as she rode with Hank through the countryside.All the while, he continued in his quest, educating spirited young men,pardoning those unjustly imprisoned, and altering the pitiable state ofthe commoner.During his various wanderings, Hank wasnce commissioned to restore water to a miraculous healing fount that hadceased to flow. Inspecting the well, he determined that it had merely sprunga leak. Much to the chagrin of the meddlesome Merlin, who had unsuccessfullyattempted to bring back the water by magic, the Yankee “divinely” restoredthe water’s flow. Merlin went home in shame, while Hank returned to Camelota hero.Still, Morgan was appalled by the livesthe people led.

They were trodden down by churchmen and nobility alike.Hank soon began to secretly work for the overthrow of the church and theend to royal privilege. To accomplish these ends, he donned common peasantgarb and set out to travel the land. King Arthur, hearing of the idea,chose to accompany him. Arthur’s eyes were quickly opened to the plightof his people.

He beheld a pathetic family dying of smallpox. A young,broken-hearted girl with a baby was hanged because she had stolen somecloth. They met men confined to prison for thirty, forty, or fifty years,no one knowing why they were there in the first place.Near the final stage of their quest, Hankand the King were forced into the horrors of slavery and taken, shackled,to London. King Arthur showed himself to be a stately man; never once didhe lose his kingly demeanor or his virtuous approach to life.

However,due to some slight misbehaviors, both he and his councilor were condemnedto die by hanging. At this point, Hank made an ingenious escape, founda telephone, informed Camelot of what was happening, and received the reassurancethat five hundred knights would hasten forthwith to London. But beforehe could rendezvous with the royal army, Hank found himself recaptured.Time was running out.

The King was blindfolded and his head placed in thenoose. Then, just at the last moment, Morgan spied Lancelot with his fivehundred knights rushing toward the city square on bicycles! By means ofa modern invention, Hank and the King had been saved.Back in Camelot, The Boss was still facedwith a duel against Sir Sagramor. With no armor, Hank easily dodged thecumbersome knight until he was able to lasso him and pull him from hishorse. But when the combatants returned for another round to the fieldof battle, the Yankee found that Merlin had stolen his lasso.

He had noalternative except to shoot Sagramor with his gun.King Arthur had seen enough of a decayed,immoral Camelot. Slavery was abolished. Knights gave up the deadly artof chivalry – though they still insisted on wearing their armor. Insteadthey became engineers or conductors on the railway between London and Camelot.

They played baseball, sold sewing machines and soap, and played the stockmarket. Camelot had become a modern American town in the midst of ancientGreat Britain.In the meantime, Hank had married Sandyand the had a little girl. As the years passed and things continued torun smoothly, Hank took his family to tour in France. Four weeks later,when they returned to England, the land had been laid desolate by invadingforces.

Moreover, King Arthur had finally been forced to admit that QueenGuinevere and Lancelot were embroiled in an affair. In the resulting warsand battles, the King, Lancelot, and most of the major knights of the kingdomwere killed. The church declared an Interdict against Hank Morgan and hiswork, and gathered all the remaining knights to uncover and execute theYankee intruder.Realizing the danger, The Boss gatheredhis few remaining supporters and retired to Merlin’s former cave. There,they prepared for the upcoming battle by digging trenches and putting upelectric fences. On the day of the attack, over 10,000 knights came forthto battle – and over 10,000 knights were either electrocuted or drowned.But in the midst of the action, Hank was stabbed.

An old hag offered tonurse him to health; no one recognized her as Merlin.Meanwhile, trapped inside the cave by pilesof dead bodies of the knights who had earlier attacked, Hank’s men wereslowly dying, choked by a poisonous gas given off by the rotting corpses.The gas did, in fact, kill everyone – except Hank. The last spell Merlincast before he himself perished, caused Hank Morgan to sleep for thirteenhundred years – until wakened safely once again in his own century.CommentaryMark Twain was fascinated by Sir ThomasMalory’s “Morte d’Arthur.” According to his notebook, Twain dreamed onenight of being a knight in Arthur’s court and of the many inconveniencesthis presented.

This dream inspired him with his story of a clever Yankeemachinist who attempts to modernize and improve Camelot.A Connecticut Yankee exposes the glorifiedknight errantry of legend as childish barbarism; a feudal system that abusedand deprived the common people. Conversely, Twain’s principles of goodgovernment lifted the commoners and the nobility alike into a new lifeof dignity and purpose.From beginning to end, this book is a surprisingand powerful combination of homiletics and humor.

For instance, Twain vividlyportrays the brutality of slavery, and immediately follows these sceneswith a comical rescue of the King and Hank Morgan by knights on bicycles.The novel was originally envisioned as a pleasant burlesque of Camelot;but social conscience and outrage against man’s inhumanity to man consistentlyfound their way to the surface, producing a serious social satire layeredwith wit and wisdom. This constant shifting between social humor and socialdisgust makes this book one of Twain’s most memorable.”

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