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 27–28 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 27: The Yankee and the King Travel Incognito

Hank Morgan gets the king ready to go adventuring, cutting his hair and dressing him in poorer clothing. But the king does not understand how to act like a peasant. He almost gets whipped the first time they are seen by noblemen, and Hank has to step in and take the whipping for him. Hank compares the two of them to a curious child and the mother who has to keep it out of harm. The king expects Hank to be able to read his mind and know what he is about to do because Hank is a magician. So Hank has to quickly invent an explanation. He claims to specialize in predicting the long-term future: 1,300 years in the future, to be precise. The king continues to expect people to treat him like a king, and this brings trouble. In one case Hank has to use a "dynamite bomb" on two knights, killing them before they could kill the king.

Chapter 28: Drilling the King

Hank Morgan forces the king to practice behaving like a peasant, but he knows all the practice doesn't really help. The king doesn't really understand what suffering is, so he cannot behave as if he has suffered. Hank also takes this opportunity to remind the king people will sit down in his presence, which normally wouldn't be allowed. Hank reflects on the difference between "intellectual work" and "manual toil." He muses on his preference for the former: "I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down." Being a king—or doing the sort of work Hank appreciates—is pleasurable and "pays" well. Being a peasant pays badly and breaks down the body and the spirit.

Analysis

For most of the book, Twain focuses on the characterization of Hank Morgan. Other characters—Sandy, Clarence, and Merlin, for example—are pretty flat. They do not change, and they are largely predictable. The only other truly dynamic character in the book is King Arthur, and Twain devotes much time to crafting and refining Arthur's character. Hank compares himself and King Arthur to a mother and a curious child. Notice the gentleness and affection in the image. King Arthur is not a vicious tyrant. He is not even compared to a spoiled child; rather, he is just a curious toddler who gets into mischief.

Hank's affection does not blind him to Arthur's faults, including his propensity to expect people to grovel before him. Arthur is not a quick learner and struggles to understand much of Hank's coaching on how to be a peasant. Of the king, Hank says, "His head was an hour-glass; it could stow an idea ... a grain at a time, not the whole idea at once." Hank realizes how sheltered the king's life has been. He tries to describe everyday cares to the king, to help him understand how he should behave when he is hungry, short of money, or exhausted. But Hank soon understands, "it was only just words ... words realize nothing ... unless you have suffered in your own person the thing which the words describe."

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