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 19–20 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 19: Knight Errantry as a Trade

Hank Morgan and Sandy get on their way again, and Sandy immediately launches back into the story about the three knights. Hank still can't follow it, but knows Sandy struggled to stay quiet while they were staying with Morgan le Fay, so he allows her to keep talking. Eventually she comes to the point: the knights Hank defeated days earlier were a duke and his six sons, who were also in Sandy's story.

Chapter 20: The Ogre's Castle

Hank Morgan and Sandy encounter another of Hank's advertising knights: this one sells toothpaste, but he has not been very successful. As they continue on their travels, Sandy informs Hank they are drawing close to their destination: the ogre's castle where the princesses are held prisoner. Hank, who had forgotten his quest, is shocked. When Sandy announces they have arrived at the castle, Hank is confused to see only a pigsty full of pigs. Sandy says there is an enchantment on the castle which makes it look like a pigsty and makes the princesses appear to be pigs. Hank decides not to argue with her. Instead, he negotiates with the pig-keepers, who Sandy believes to be ogres. Hank buys all the pigs and Sandy is delighted to see all the "princesses" freed. Hank is less delighted when Sandy expects all the pigs to be treated with gentleness and courtly courtesy. She takes this idea even to the point of being housed inside a castle when it's time to sleep.

Analysis

In this book, Twain sets out to make fun of romantic novels and epic poems which glorify the medieval period. The supposed confrontation with the ogres gives him the opportunity to pay homage to another novel which satirized the chivalrous traditions of knighthood: Don Quixote. Written nearly 300 years before Twain's novel, Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605, 1615) tells the story of a crazy old man's delusions of knighthood. This man, Quixote, attacks windmills, which he thinks are giants, and believes a prostitute is a noble lady. Like Cervantes, Twain wants to show how silly knighthood can be, but his "knight" isn't crazy—he's the only sane one there. It is Sandy who sees pig herders as ogres and pigs as princesses. Hank Morgan just goes along with it.

Twain clearly intends for Hank to be an admirable character but not superhuman. This is the second time on his quest that Hank's luck saves him. He was not equipped to battle those knights, but he could "defeat" them with his pipe. He could not possibly defeat a band of ogres and rescue princesses, but negotiating with some farmhands and herding pigs? This is a much more familiar task.

Hank is so busy chasing princess pigs, he never stops to wonder if all quests end this way. When the other knights come home and claim of defeating giants and slaying dragons, are they all making up stories? Thus far Hank has been captured by Sir Kay, "defeated" the knights, and "rescued" the "princesses." Certainly Hank's experiences so far suggest there are no real monsters in King Arthur's kingdom, any more than there is real magic.

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