A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Pocket Classic)

ISBN: 0883017261
ISBN 13: 9780883017265
By: Mark Twain

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About this book

Hank Morgan, a 19th century Hartfordian, awakens to find himself inexplicably transported to Arthurian England in 528. The story begins in a 1st person narrative in Warwick Castle, where a man details his recollection of a tale told him by a stranger who's personified as a Knight thru his language & familiarity with armor. After a brief tale of Launcelot slaying two giants in 3rd-person narrative, Hank Morgan enters &, given whiskey, is persuaded to tell his story. Described thru 1st-person narrative as a man familiar with firearms & machinery, he'd become a superintendent in firearms manufacture. He describes the beginning of his tale by illustrating details of a disagreement with subordinates, where he sustained a head injury caused by a man named Hercules. Passing out, he describes waking up beneath an oak in rural Camelot where a Knight catches him trespassing, & after establishing rapport, leads him to the castle. Hank is ridiculed for his appearance & sentenced to burn at the stake. Luckily, this coincides with the 528 solar eclipse, which he'd learned about in his own time. Recalling this, he convinces everyone of his power by making it seem he causes the eclipse at the moment he's to be burned. He's liberated, given the position of principal royal minister & treated with awe. Celebrity brings him a title: "The Boss." Hank learns about medieval practices & superstitions. He outdoes fake sorcerers & miracle-working clergy. Merlin becomes jealous. Despite being a court officer, Hank's willing to go among the people to promote new economic policies as well as democratic & modern principles. Arthur chooses to join him on an excursion during which he exposes himself to smallpox in order to help a peasant. Despite this noble act, he's unwilling to abandon medieval ways. He eventually causes the arrest of the incognito Hank & himself by being unable to act like a commoner. Hank & a group of bicycle-riding knights rescue them. Hank industrializes the country behind the back of the ruling class. He creates schools which teach modern ideas & English, removing new generations from medieval concepts. He constructs factories producing modern tools & weapons. He marries. They have a daughter. While vacationing with them in France, he learns Arthur has died fighting his nephew Mordred. Hank establishes a republic, declares himself ruler & the people revolt. Merlin finally uses a spell to put him asleep to return to his own time.

Reader's Thoughts

Kathleen

This book is--being written by Mark Twain--a brilliant lampoon of both the dark ages and 19th century culture. Obviously, reason and science come out ahead of the backward people who can't inspect a well to see if it has a leak even though they're living a thousand years after the Greeks. Still, no one makes it through this book looking like anything but a blood-thirsty, power hungry animal. The Boss travels mysteriously back in time to set up flat taxes, polluting factories, and standing national armies in the time of King Arthur. Lessons to be learned by all, which is great, except that you have to read a whole book without a single likable character. Clarence almost made the cut with his suggestions of replacing the royal family with a family of cats that would serve the exact same function, until the reader realizes that he also keeps any offer of mercy being made during the war.Overall, this book was intelligent without being very entertaining, which is a shame, because it is one of the greatest ideas ever written.

The other John

I checked this one out of the English library here on campus. I think I may be the only one here ever to appreciate this copy, as it's full, unabridged 19th Century writing, with many allusions to Malory's L'Morte d'Arthur, which your average Chinese student will probably not have read. Still you never know who might come along. I, at least, enjoyed it immensely, despite the fact that it's a tad nihilistic. It's the tale of one Hank Morgan, a superintendent in a gun factory in 19th Century Connecticut. He gets conked on the head one day and awakens in 6th Century England--the realm of King Arthur. Through his advanced scientific knowledge, Hank is able to discredit Merlin the magician and set himself up as advisor to the King. His adventures and attempts to reform the society are quite amusing. It's a sarcastic romp, in the acerbic Mark Twain style. There's also a dark undercurrent to the tale, however, which makes it like laughing in the face of death. So while I liked the book, I don't think I could ever love it like I do some of the more upbeat retellings of the Arthurian legends.

Suzanne Vrieze

My favorite passage of the book:I urged that kings were dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure that a royal family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be laughably vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive, finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house. ... The worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any other royalties, and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of a deeper love and reverence than the customary human king, and would certainly get it.

Stela

I have to say I browsed the final chapters - even if I understand the message, the book seemed to me longish and somehow boring, too long for a parody, anyway, and too many themes not so developed at all - politics, society, even linguistics and I didn't like the choice of the historical period, why King Arthur, anyway? Maybe because his figure is half historical half mythological and therefore you can put him in (almost) any historical context you want, but he is also a symbol and I wish he remained like thatMaybe I'll re-read it sometime in the future but I'm not so sure.

Ken Elser

Although a bit of a mish-mash of ideas and stories and not particularly coherent in its structure, A Connecticut Yankee is surely an intriguing social commentary about the limits of progress and a strong condemnation of human nature. Twain uses his fantastical tale of a 19th century New Englander become right-hand man to King Arthur in the 6th century to illustrate his cynacism at the idea of true human progress and civilization, showing it to be ultimately self-defeating and as cruel as the midevil world that he imagines. In Twain's conception, a human being can never overcome their inborn superstitions and prejudices, despite any apparent progress in this vein. A critical review contained in my copy finds fault with the fact that Twain simply observes these failures of human nature laughingly, deriding while offering no solution. The real height of arrogance, however, would surely be to offer the platidudes that any such "solution" would have to represent. In the end, Twain does what he does best: He holds a mirror up to society and our own natures, that we might nod (and perhaps chuckle in a spasm of morbid humor) at the terms of our own sentence.

John

My initial attempt to read this book as a kid turned me off to Mark Twain for the next twenty years or so. Revisiting it now, I can certainly see why. Despite the fact that Disney keeps on adapting it into tepid kiddie fare (UNIDENTIFIED FLYING ODDBALL, A KID IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, A KNIGHT IN CAMELOT, BLACK KNIGHT), the actual book is anything but. A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT may start out seeming like MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, but Twain quickly veers into much darker, more serious territory--and even ends the story with a massacre that makes the opening scenes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN look tame in comparison.One problem I have with A CONNECTICUT YANKEE is the time travel element. Or, rather, lack thereof. Twain doesn't even try to explain it. Our hero simply gets whapped over the head with a crowbar and, voila!, awakens in the Middle Ages. Even Disney came up with something more clever than that...The biggest problem with A CONNECTICUT YANKEE is its wild inconsistency at every turn. At first, the book seems to celebrate America as being symbolic of the pinnacles of modern progress, especially in terms of science and reason. Then, when themes of slavery and oppression are introduced, it feels as though Twain is questioning just how far we've really come, and whether humans are even capable of forging their own destinies in the first place. Or is a person's morality merely the by-product of his upbringing? Eventually, the book seems to critique American arrogance and imperialism, as the hero uses reason and scientific knowledge to perpetuate mass violence in order to achieve his well-intentioned social revolution. One thing is for certain: Twain really, really hated slavery.Unfortunately, despite Twain's legendary status as a humorist, A CONNECTICUT YANKEE is very dry reading. Even at its best, the humor is only mildly amusing, never funny. Mostly, the book serves as a platform by which Twain can air his general disgust for the entire human race. The whole novel is too silly to take seriously, and too serious to accept as comedy. It's harder to classify than a duck-billed platypus. Is it a good novel? Yes. Is it a great work of classic literature? Er...not really.

Sarah

A book about going to a backwards place, dominated by an ignorant faith and blowing a lot of stuff up in the name of freedom. If you can be non-cynical enough, you might be able to find sympathy for our American freedom-fighters in Iraq by reading of Hank's well-meaning attempt at a socio-political overhaul. I won't tell you how it ends, but your world won't be too rocked. This book is really amazing to read from our contemporary perspective. Here's a cusp-industrial mind writing on the dark ages. It's sort of like we get to time-travel twice. Somehow though, Twain manages to seem more than ahead of the dark ages, more than ahead of his own time, he seems ahead of our time. His book, as it sees Arthurian England ratchet awkwardly up to the 19th Century brings to light the same issues we are dealing with today. The benefits versus the costs of technology, the tenaciousness of class lines and the ignorance produced by religious faith. It's very much worth the time today to read a great American's thinking on these issues and be reminded that though ideals are necessary for advancement, they must put humanity first or be made monstrous.Also, look out for some very, very dry humor. I know I didn't pick up all of it, but what I did was a treat. Finally, I recommend getting an edition that includes the original illustrations - they're beautiful and funny.

Jennifer (aka EM)

Ok, so Mark Twain. This is the only one I've read, once way back when and just now. MT/SLC - he's not really part of the curriculum or general literary zeitgeist in Canada. So I don't really know much about him or about that Huckleberry boy and the other one, Tom. I'm likely talking out of my hat when I say, if you liked them you've just got to like this one. Although maybe this is more directly scathing and satirical? Connecticut Yankee is an eviscerating take-down of the entire British social structure, y'know, the one that the U.S. revolted (or as Twain would say "revoluted") against. On top of that, it's a castigation of the RC Church and its role in the oppressions of, at the time he was writing, the past 1800+ years. And most of all, it's an abolitionist tale. Call 'em serfs, call 'em slaves (as Twain does), same difference. This is a plea for egalitarianism and humanism.At the same time, "The Boss" - as the prototypical late-19th century entrepreneur and manufacturing baron -- is flawed and gently mocked for his belief that capitalism and technology will win the day. I don't know how much mockery would have been recognized at the time of publication, but from 100+ years later, we can clearly see the hand of a clear-eyed and prescient satirist at work in the immense and disproportional carnage wreaked by the improved technology of warfare, the raping and pillaging of natural resources and resulting destruction of the environment of the Industrial Age, the rabid commercialism that leads to the trading of one type of slavery for another.Twain does not give two hoots for historical accuracy here, nor for any of the conventions by which literary time travel is supposed to "work." He doesn't care if this makes any logical sense, and to make sure we understand that, he picks, first of all, the already fictional 6th-Century King Arthur and his Knights as the time to travel back to. He then thinks nothing of weaving in references to King Henry VIII and the Tower of London and a bunch of other anachronistic details that defy the historical record and the laws of physics. That is part of the delight of this book - it's a romp.His brush is so broad he takes the piss of everyone and everything on that little island of Britain from about 500 to 1850 A.D.This perhaps goes without saying, because no satire is fully effective without it, but his righteous anger is not just expressed through ridiculousness and absurdity -- there are scenes here that are heartbreaking and tragic, and Twain skilfully reins in his pen to paint these with the pathos (albeit romanticized and sentimentalized) they require to keep our eyes focused on the fact that there are real people who suffer at the hands of others and institutions who enslave them.Powerful reading (and a bit of a brain-twist, coming right after Wolf Hall, which I'm off to review in just a moment.

Kara

Most people think they know this story - but they don't - they just know the fish-out-of-water story that is just the surface of this book; this is really a story of about the biggest problems Mark Twain observed in his time period, including slavery, abuses of political power, unchecked factory growth, child labor, and frightening new war technology. The final battle scene eerily predicts World War One. While the book has many funny moments, it's really a somber, reflective, sad story.

David

If this was more successful, if this was the Great American Novel, I wonder how different the subsequent 120 years would have been. Hank Morgan, the Connecticut Yankee, learns that it is at our peril that we crash into unfamiliar societies and order them along our own lines…Bits I liked:Cute:"This was an airy slim boy in shrimp-colored tights that made him look like a forked carrot; ... (he) informed me that he was a page.'Go 'long,' I said; 'you ain't more than a paragraph.'"Mark Twain wades into the Paul Dacre / Ralph Miliband debate:"You see my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions and officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, to care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags - that is loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal;"I loved this on constitutional monarchy:"His idea was a republic, without privileged orders but with a hereditary royal family at the head of it instead of an elective chief magistrate. He believed that no nation that had ever known the joy of worshiping a royal family could ever be robbed of it and not fade away and die of melancholy. I urged that kings were dangerous. He said, then have cats. He was sure that a royal family of cats would answer every purpose."Baseball in armour:"And when a man was running, and threw himself on his stomach to slide to his base, it was like an ironclad coming into port."Mark the misanthropist:"The thing in man which makes him cruel to a slave is in him permanently and will not be rooted out for a million years."

Steven Benesi

What do I think? Well, I have a malleable top ten books I've ever read list, but there are two stalwarts that will never be shaken from it; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is one of these. Brilliant in its satire, cutting in its humor, in my opinion this is Clemens at his finest. I've read that it wasn't received well in its time, but for the days we all live in now it is a master work. It's amazing how much can change, yet how everything stays the same. Clemens take on the era of King Arthur and the failings of society echo the world we live in now. The parallels that Clemens draws between the Dark Ages and his era echo similarities in our own modern era. This is both hilarious and frightening as it proves that ignorance, fear, propaganda, media-hype, war, and the people that would take advantage of these things don't seem to be going anywhere no matter the strides that humanity takes. Read it lightly and it's an adventure story with amazing wit and prose; delve deeply into it and it yields much much more,and, as always, Clemens word play and puns satisfy even the most snobby of readers. Recommended to anyone and everyone. Put down what you're reading now and pick this up, and please talk to me about it when you're done.

Chana

Sheesh, wrote a whole review, was about to hit save when the computer quit and I lost it! Here we go again:Our main character is a Connecticut Yankee who is cracked over the head with a crowbar in 1879 and wakes in England year 528. He is quickly taken prisoner and brought to King Arthur's Court and sentenced to death. Our "Hank" is a an American however; quick-witted, educated and optimistic. He remembers that an eclipse is due to take place shortly and manages not only to save himself, but to secure a position of second in command to the King.What I loved about this book is Mark Twain's use of the language, juxtaposing the archaic with the modern to a very amusing result, and often playing with the language with run on sentences that become nonsensical and using rhyme in clever ways to make his reader laugh. It reminded me at times of Mrs. Murphy's Chowder (bedslats, Democrats, floating all around!)I also love what I see as Mark Twain's quintessential American-ness. I often felt great waves of nostalgia and patriotism while reading this-- while I was also annoyed by what I perceived as the American superiority that permeates it. Our Hank is busy building factories, reducing the worth of coinage to save the government money, blowing things up, and finding fault with the realm (not too hard to do, that one).The book is very political in nature, even as it jokes along in rhyme and fantasy. Mark Twain has written a rambling, ruminating rant against slavery, oppression, injustice, monarchy, nobility and The Catholic Church while promoting education, science, a government for the people by the people, and religious faith and practice that is neither a monopoly nor a dictate.

Andrew

Mark Twain is my favorite American author, easily. The wit and sarcasm he uses is right up my alley, and his tales are easy to digest. A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is so good. I'd put it right up there with Huckleberry Finn, maybe even higher, since it doesn't slow down like Huck Finn. The conceit is that a 19th-century Connecticut factory manager bumps his head and winds up in King Arthur's time. The Boss, as he comes to be called, hates monarchy and the authoritarian barbarism he encounters, the sheer ignorance, and the unwillingness (or inability) of the people to change their backward ways. He despises chivalry and the stupidity of this world he inhabits, so he undertakes to take over early Britain using science and the people's own superstition. If you haven't read the book stop reading now. SPOILER ALERT!What's so beautiful about this book is that it obviously undercuts the Arthurian customs, but if you read closely, also takes it's whacks at 19th-century capitalist imperialists. Henry constantly refers to the people as animals or Indians, and his attempts to "civilize" these people all eventually fail. He criticizes the royalty for their wanton cruelty and violence, then proceeds to slaughter the whole of the royal class. He speaks of the poor indoctrination of these people, starts his own plan of indoctrination, yet can't escape the fact that his own indoctrination fails all but a few. He criticizes the state Church, then says that in his perfect state a man can be "any kind of Christian he wants to be." Mark Twain was too cynical to have done this unintentionally, although I admit that this is a reading that is outside the context of the time during which it was written. Twain's Uber-mensch becomes as much of an animalistic, cold-blooded killer as the very people he criticizes. The social commentary here is clear to me, that the machine of modern imperialism is just as brutal, maybe moreso for its efficiency, as the ancient ways from which we claim to be so far removed.

Rob

I was disappointed in this book, mainly because I feel Twain ruined what could have been a fine book with his unwieldy, savage cynicism. It's clear to me that he goes into this tale with an axe to grind, and the harsh marks of his attack with that implement are everywhere. I am a great admirer of Twain, but in this his shows the same ire I see in Letters from the Earth. I understand the 'why' of that in Letters: Twain feels the practices he derides have done harm to mankind, which Twain wishes to 'awaken'. It is the satire of the Malcontent, as harsh and shrill as anything Swift writes towards the end of Gulliver's Travels. But has the Arthurian cycle been guilty of a similar offense, that it should be treated in this manner? So far as I can tell, Twain never makes that clear. I understand his shrillness in Letters, just as I do in Swift. But here, I do not.

Prem

This story starts off with a man, unamed at the time but given a title later on, The Boss. Who enters a museum with a book in arm, who spoke of the old days and ages of King Arthur. The Boss was an American in the state of Connecticut. his trade was in the grest arms factory there, he could make anything from guns to explosives. He was head superintendent with more than a thousand men under him. But because they were hard men there was always quarrels with the men and one fight to many he was knocked out. The Boss then woke up in the middle of no where next to a tree. A knight spots him and takes him back to King Arthur's courtyard, all while The Boss keeps questioning the peasants where he is and his sanity. Eventually he accepts the fact that he is in the 6th century when he used the eclipse as a magic trick to avoid being burned at the stake. Immediately after that he was second to the king, even above the mighty Merlin. The Boss goes about on many adventures from blowing up Merlins Tower to Killing Ogres and rescuing princessess to fixing the Holy Fountain. While doing all of this he had met a boy Clarence who had helped him earlier in The Bosses first appearance. The Boss took him in as an apprentice and taught hin everything that he had ever know. While the king and The Boss were on their adventures Clarance was making great strides in technological advancement. They had created secret tap lines, phone lines, and schools. At one point of the Kings and The Bosses adventure they were captured and slaves about to be hanged. But before that The Boss had escaped and sent a telegram to Clarence for help and to send 500 knights. As the king was about to be hung the troops arrived on Bicycles earlier than anticipated. After that The Boss was very influential and decided to bring out his secrets and let everyone know. He ended getting married to Sandy, the girl who escorted him to the Ogres Castle to save the princessess. The Boss returns to Camelot to hear that the King is dead from the queens betrayal and that the Church was coming after The Boss. So they set up electric fences and mines to keep the knights out. All was successful. they had killed 25, 000 knights and when it was over The Boss insisted to seeking any survivors. Caught off gaurd he was stabbed and was in a acoma state. The rest of the manuscript is written by Clarence. A woman who turned out to be Merlin put a spell over The Boss saying he will sleep for 13 centuries. So they buried The Boss very far in the cave and they attempted to escape. And that was the end of the story.I thought this story was very good. it was a fun read for me. the story actually has some hidden elements in it, that represent Mark Twains political views. The story had me actually thinking of the logic involved in the story and I can confirm its very mind twisting. There is a Magical element that was proven false in the beggining but is the only thing that saves The Boss. Overall I enjoyed this twisted story. and I would recommend this book to anyone who would like an introduction into Mark Twains works.

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