A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court | Chapters 11–12 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 11: The Yankee in Search of Adventures

A young woman shows up at the castle with a tale of her mistress and many other young women being held prisoner. King Arthur decides Hank Morgan should take on the quest. Clarence is delighted for him, but Hank is less thrilled. He tries to question the young woman, whose name is Alisande, but she has little information for him. Hank complains to Clarence, but Clarence says the girl will go with Hank on his quest to show him the way. Hank objects, saying he is practically engaged to be married to another woman. Readers know this woman lives in the 19th century, which Clarence doesn't understand. Hank sets off on the quest, after quite a struggle to get into his armor. Hank despises his armor, which is heavy and difficult to maneuver. He can't even get onto his horse without assistance.

Chapter 12: Slow Torture

Hank Morgan and Alisande, whom he now calls Sandy, set off on their quest together. Hank is horribly uncomfortable in his armor. He is hot and he can never get off his horse because he can't get himself back on again. Eventually they have to stop so Sandy can pour water on him to cool him off. Now they are stuck, because Hank can't get back on his horse. As they wait, Hank finds he can't even think about how to solve his problem because Sandy chatters all the time, driving him crazy.

Analysis

In the literary tradition, knights set off on quests eagerly. Hank Morgan is anything but eager. The whole thing seems mismanaged and generally a waste of time, by his standards. He wants clear directions: how many giants will he fight, where are they located, and so forth. No one else thinks this information is important at all.

In the same way, knights are always happy to rescue fair damsels in distress. Hank, on the other hand, finds Sandy irritating. She never stops talking, and she can't understand half of what Hank says. However, after multiple years in the 6th century Hank should have learned better than to speak continually in 19th-century American slang. Hank slowly warms to Sandy, and he admits she is "a comely enough creature." But he is also frustrated with her. As he says, "It may be that this girl had a fact in her somewhere, but I don't believe you could have sluiced it out with a hydraulic."

Twain devotes much of these two chapters to excruciating details of the experience of wearing armor. Comedy often lies in the details, and Twain makes good use of them. He devotes multiple paragraphs of Chapter 11 to the process of getting into the armor. In Chapter 12 Twain spends paragraphs on the agony of sweat dripping into Hank's eyes, the indignity of a fly inside his helmet. The reader can fully appreciate Hank's frustration with such an antiquated experience.

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