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 31–32 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 31: Marco

Hank Morgan and his host, whose name is Marco, stroll through the village. Hank is fascinated by the specific ways class affects Marco's behavior. He ignores people he thinks are below him, grovels to those above him, and is friendly to those he views as his equals. Marco and Hank have to stop a small mob of children from hanging one of their own. Hank comments on how the children are just re-enacting what their elders did. Hank is pleased to see the money his team has created out in circulation. He informs the reader about purchasing power, arguing high wages don't mean much if those wages can't buy more goods. He uses the North and South during the Civil War as an example.

Hank invites Dowley, the blacksmith, and several other tradesmen in town to dine at Marco's house. Marco is thrilled these important local figures will eat at his house, but he worries about the expense. Hank insists Marco allow him to pay for the meal, and after some arguing, Marco gratefully accepts. Hank not only buys food for the meal, but also buys furnishings for Marco's home and new clothes for Marco and his wife. He tells Marco these are gifts from "Jones," his name for the king. Hank claims "Jones" is a farmer and he, Hank, is the farmer's bailiff, that is, the man who manages the farm. He warns Marco that "Jones" is a daydreaming sort of person who is likely to come up with all sorts of strange ideas. This cover story lays the groundwork for Hank to smooth things over any time the king forgets to pretend to be a commoner.

Chapter 32: Dowley's Humiliation

Marco and his wife are shocked by the number of things Hank Morgan and "Jones" (King Arthur) have purchased for them. Hank reassures the couple that he and Jones can actually afford to spend this kind of money. Dowley and the others come for a meal at Marco's house. Hank encourages Dowley to talk, and Dowley tells his life story and brags about how often he gets luxuries like fresh meat on his table. After Dowley's story, Marco and his wife bring out the new things Hank bought for them, and Dowley and the others are amazed. The bill arrives, too, and Hank grandly pays it, even though it is the largest bill any of the commoners have ever seen. Hank is happy to see Marco so proud and amused to see Dowley brought down low just because Marco also has nice things.

Analysis

In these chapters, Twain slips in a little lecture on economics, specifically the importance of purchasing power. Hank Morgan's belief in purchasing power—which is actually a well-established economic concept—leads to problems in a later chapter, so these chapters provide necessary context.

Purchasing power is a measure of how much you can buy with a single unit of money. Twain—through Hank—discusses a fact about the economics of the Civil War. The South had to create its own currency, and that currency lost its value over the course of the war. Thus people had to use a lot more money to make purchases. Hank's argument, which modern economists would support, is that it doesn't matter if you earn a lot of money if the money has little value. To put it in a modern context, if you earn $1,000 a day, that sounds like a lot. But if a loaf of bread costs $3,000, you're going to have a hard time getting enough to eat.

Hank is generous in these chapters, but also a bit of a show-off. Twain excelled at creating dynamic main characters who have both good and bad traits: Huck Finn comes to mind. Hank is another of these. He genuinely enjoys helping Marco and his wife, but he gets equal enjoyment out of "Dowley's humiliation," as the chapter is named. Twain concludes the chapter with this description of Dowley: "a good deal wilted, and shrunk-up and collapsed; he had the aspect of a bladder-balloon that's been stepped on by a cow." And Hank loves it.

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