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 25–26 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25: A Competitive Examination

Hank Morgan observes King Arthur sitting in judgment on court cases. Hank admits the king is generally a fine and just person, but the king is unconsciously biased in favor of the nobles and often decides cases in their favor. Hank also tries to get involved in the creation of the standing army King Arthur is building. Hank wants the army to be led by his "West Pointers," that is, students of his military academy. West Point is a famous and long-established American military school, and Hank borrowed the name for his school. However, Hank's students are commoners, so none of the usual authorities think they belong in the military at all. Hank assists at an examination pitting one of his West Pointers against two nobles. The West Pointer is so well educated he embarrasses the examiners, but he is still rejected as an officer. Hank figures out a work-around: he persuades King Arthur to make one regiment "The King's Own" and put all the nobles in it. The rest of the army will be made up of Hank's well-trained "nobodies."

Chapter 26: The First Newspaper

King Arthur learns of Hank Morgan's plan to travel the country disguised as a peasant, and he wants to go along. Hank asks if he will notify Queen Guenever before they leave, and King Arthur says sadly she doesn't pay attention to him when Sir Launcelot is around. Hank knows it is true, and he feels badly for the king. As Hank watches the king perform his kingly duties, he reflects on some of the changes he has made in the kingdom. These include creating a new monetary system and launching a newspaper. He gets to see his newspaper in action when a newsboy appears in the Valley of Holiness. Hank is surprised to find parts of his paper trouble him more than he expected. He realizes his attitudes are being changed by his long sojourn in the 6th century. Nevertheless, Hank proudly presents the newspaper to the monks, who are fascinated and also shocked by the idea of printing. After all, it wasn't until the 15th century that printing became widespread in Europe. Hank has some concerns about how the paper reports certain events, but he still feels very proud of his accomplishment.

Analysis

In Chapter 25 Twain continues to provide examples of one of his main arguments. Rewarding hereditary rights (e.g., the nobility and the monarchy) can never create as successful a nation rewarding merit. He uses a court case and the examination of his "West Pointer" to illustrate his idea. Hank Morgan claims including more people in making laws or in the formation of the army, King Arthur's kingdom would be a better and more successful place. Hank cannot intervene in the court case, but he does manage to arrange things to his satisfaction in the military.

Twain touches upon one of the key elements of the Arthurian saga in Chapter 26: Queen Guenever's affair with Sir Launcelot. In several version of the Arthurian legend, Guenever and Sir Launcelot fall in love and have an adulterous affair. This affair prevents Launcelot from finding the Holy Grail, since adultery is a sin. Eventually, it leads to a great conflict between Arthur and Launcelot and later between Arthur and others. Twain addresses this only briefly, as Hank wouldn't consider it a proper thing to discuss. With only a few sentences, Twain lays the groundwork for later tumult in Camelot. He reminds readers who already know the Arthurian mythology and prepares those who might not know of it at all.

Hank encounters his newspaper in print for the first time in Chapter 26, and he is both thrilled and displeased. When he hears the newsboy selling the paper he says, "One greater than kings had arrived—the newsboy." Through a free press, newspapers could remove leaders from their positions of power, so the newsboy is a harbinger of great change. Yet when he reads the paper, Hank finds he has changed, too. "It was good Arkansas journalism, but this was not Arkansas," Hank says. Many readers will see this as Twain speaking more than Hank: there is no evidence Hank would know anything about Arkansas journalism, but Twain surely did. Twain is careful not to make everything from the 19th century wonderful. He acknowledged the difficulties of static on the telephone, and now he recognizes the advantages and disadvantages of newspapers. Twain is a realist when it comes to technology: he appreciates it, but he knows it's not perfect.

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