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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 33–35 | Summary



Chapter 33: 6th-Century Political Economy

Hank Morgan makes an effort to cheer Dowley up again and succeeds. He says he has thoroughly impressed Dowley with his prosperity. Now the only way Dowley could admire him more is if Hank had a title. He thinks of 19th-century England with its "statues and monuments to her unspeakable Georges and other royals." Hank thinks it a shame to memorialize these men "and leave unhonored the creators of this world ... Gutenberg, Watt, Arkwright, Whitney, Morse, Stephenson, Bell."

Hank and Dowley keep talking. Dowley brags about how much more people are paid in his part of the country. Hank admits people are paid more, but he questions how much things cost. Hank is convinced he can prove Dowley wrong through economics. He knows, because of economics, that purchasing power matters more, but Dowley can't understand it, and neither can the others. Hank gets determined to educate them, and he begins talking about how wages and employment will work in the future. He insists legal punishments such as the pillory and the stocks should be abolished, as they were in his home time of the 19th century. Instead of convincing them, though, Hank scares them. He points out that by their own laws, some of them could be punished. He meant to show them how wrong the laws were, but the men are afraid Hank will inform on them and get them all punished.

Chapter 34: The Yankee and the King Sold as Slaves

Hank Morgan tries to regain the confidence of Marco, Dowley, and the others, but before he can, the king rejoins them. The king tries to talk about agriculture, since he is supposed to be a farmer. He makes so many mistakes, though, that the commoners think he is mad, and they determine to seize both Hank and the king. Marco and his wife summon a mob, and Hank and the king must run away. The mob gets dogs to follow them. Hank and the king try to hide in a tree, but it's no use. The mob sets the tree on fire, so Hank and the king must climb down. A nobleman stops the mob from killing them. The nobleman seems to be willing to protect them, but in fact he sells them to slavers. Hank and the king argue they are freemen, but they cannot prove it and so they are sold.

Chapter 35: A Pitiful Incident

After they are sold as slaves, the king broods because he was sold for such a low price, lower even than Hank Morgan. Potential buyers—and the slave trader—view the king as not much use, but fancy to look at. The slave trader decides to fix that by whipping and beating the king, which damages his body but doesn't change his spirit. They are forced to travel with the slave trader for over a month, and it convinces the king slavery needs to be abolished. Hank is glad to hear the king's new understanding. Now the king has avowed his hatred of slavery, Hank decides to find a way for them to escape.


At the start of Chapter 33 Twain is back to one of his main themes: the problem with how England and Europe value human beings. Specifically, Hank Morgan objects to the statues of kings which exist while the "creators of the world" are "unhonored." Twain names several notable inventors: Gutenberg developed the modern printing press, Watt created an improved steam engine, and Arkwright developed factory machinery and systems. Whitney invented the cotton gin, Morse the telegraph, Stephenson the locomotive, and Bell the telephone. In Hank's mind—and Twain's mind—these are the people who should be recognized.

Twain heads back to one of his key themes in these chapters: the evils of slavery. When the nobleman sells them to the slave trader, they protest they are freemen, but cannot prove it. Hank comments, "This same infernal law had existed in our own South in my own time ... without the circumstance making any particular impression upon me." There are historical records of free African-Americans who were sold as slaves under similar circumstances. How could a free person prove he or she was free? A recently freed slave might have a document verifying his status, but someone who was born free wouldn't have paperwork to prove it. Hank and the king are trapped. Twain touches on an important characteristic of human nature in this passage: until the issue is personal, many people will do nothing about it.

Hank and Twain also get in one more dig at the hereditary monarchies of Europe. As the king is sold, Hank remarks, "it only shows that there is nothing diviner about a king than there is about a tramp." The divine right of kings asserted that a monarch had his or her authority directly from God and therefore could not be questioned. This belief was particularly prevalent in the earlier days of the British and French monarchies, but was thoroughly out of favor by the late 19th century. Since King Arthur is not truly a historical figure, Twain "gets away with" associating him with the divine right of kings. It is not clear any real 6th-century monarch would have claimed such a right, but the Arthurian legend is a legend. Many aspects of the legend are products of the later centuries in which the legend was retold.

Hank is impressed by the true quality of the king, which is revealed in these chapters. He realizes Arthur "was a good deal more than a king, he was a man." Twain elaborates through Hank: "when a man is a man, you can't knock it out of him." In Twain's mind, being a man is more valuable than being a king. The king suffers repeated beatings because his lordly manner makes him difficult to sell, but he will not bow to the slave trader's will. Arthur has been tested, and he has passed the test. Moreover, Hank's previous comment about how slavery became personally offensive to him once he was a slave is even truer for Arthur. Hank sees an opportunity here, so he delays his plan for escape. He wants to ensure King Arthur will be an abolitionist, one who advocates for the elimination of slavery, when he returns to the throne. Having convinced Arthur through experience, Hank deems it time to escape.

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