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 15–16 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 15: Sandy's Tale

Sandy tells a lengthy story about three knights. Hank Morgan repeatedly interrupts the story to discern exactly who is involved and what is happening, but he later loses interest and daydreams about his old life. Hank spends some time thinking about a young woman he knew in his own time. From hints in his daydreams, it seems clear Hank was enamored of a young woman who worked the switchboard at his job. He describes calling up the office, saying, "Hello, Central" and listening for her to say, "Hello, Hank." When the two of them approach an unfamiliar castle, Hank stops his daydreaming and Sandy is forced to take a break from her story.

Chapter 16: Morgan le Fay

On their way to the castle, Hank Morgan and Sandy encounter a knight wearing a sandwich board advertisement: one of Hank's new gimmicks. Hank uses these advertising knights to promote new products, such as soap. He also thinks the advertising knights help the common people recognize how silly the knighthood is.

The knight tells Hank the castle they approach belongs to Queen Morgan le Fay, King Arthur's sister who is a great sorceress. Hank is surprised to discover how beautiful and charming Morgan is, until he sees her murder a young serving boy for bumping into her. Morgan clearly dominates her family, including her much-older husband, the king of this region. When Hank forgetfully compliments her brother, whom she despises, she orders her servants to take him and Sandy to the dungeons. Sandy warns Morgan that Hank is "The Boss." Morgan backs down, but claims she knew he was The Boss all along.

Analysis

Twain clearly wants to avoid any suggestion of romance between Hank Morgan and Sandy on this trip. To accomplish this, he makes Sandy mildly irritating through her never-ending chatter. He also gives Hank a "girl he left behind," although few details are ever provided about this girl or how serious the relationship was.

Also in these chapters the reader first encounters Hank's advertising knights. They are part of Hank's plan to dismantle the knighthood; they also serve to provide him with useful information about the mood in the countryside. Hank will encounter other advertising knights in later chapters. They all are attempting to promote personal hygiene products, such as soap or toothpaste, which were unheard of in the 6th century. Hank's advertising scheme is unlikely to be very successful. In a country where any type of bath is a rare occurrence, soap isn't going to be a big seller. Furthermore, why are the knights wearing sandwich boards when few people can read? The advertising knights may be better tools for dismantling knighthood than for promoting cleanliness.

Twain introduces another famous—or infamous—character from Arthurian legend in Queen Morgan le Fay. Morgan is King Arthur's half-sister and married to the king of a small kingdom within Arthur's larger domain. She is also an enchantress. Morgan is one of those characters who changes greatly throughout the history of Arthurian legend, depending on who is telling the story. Twain's primary resource seems to have been Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (c. 1470). Mallory paints Morgan as an evil sorceress conspiring to steal Arthur's throne and become Queen of all England. Twain paints a vivid image of Morgan's cruelty as he describes her casual slaying of the servant boy. After this moment, Hank will not underestimate her again.

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