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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 43–44 and Final P.S. by M.T. | Summary



Chapter 43: The Battle of the Sand-Belt

Hank Morgan, Clarence, and the boys wait for a week in the cave, during which time Hank writes most of his narrative. He misses Sandy and Hello-Central dreadfully. He is also horribly disappointed to realize most of the populace is so cowed by the Church and the nobles they will not support his republic. The whole country is against them. The battle begins, and the knights are wiped out by the advanced technologies Hank and Clarence have established. Soon they are surrounded by the bodies of 25,000 dead men.

Chapter 44: A Postscript by Clarence

Clarence narrates the last chapter. He describes how Hank Morgan insists they look for the wounded, and one of them stabs Hank. Someone—apparently an old woman—shows up and offers to tend the injured Hank. This disguised person turns out to be Merlin, who claims to have done magic to make The Boss sleep forever. Clarence admits Hank never woke back up, and he says they will leave Hank sleeping in a cave, his manuscript beside him.

Final P.S. by M.T.

The first narrator, who lives in the 19th century, returns to say he stayed up all night reading the manuscript. He goes to visit the old man who brought it to him and finds the man delirious, talking to Sandy and eager to see Hello-Central. He seems to hear the king arriving once more, and then he dies.


Although the book as a whole was humorous, the ending is very bleak. Scholars have speculated this is a sign of Twain's own personal problems, as he struggled with financial problems and lost many family members to illness over the years. It may also be that Twain, for all his famous American optimism, had a realist's view about technology and human nature. Hank Morgan's final technological triumph is bringing 19th-century warfare to Arthurian England, slaughtering 25,000 knights in the process. It's a positively horrific number, and Hank is appropriately troubled by it. Clarence is less troubled, knowing full well what those knights will do to Hank and his followers if they are caught. This may also reflect Twain's life experience as someone who lived through the Civil War. Twain deserted before he ever fought in it, but he would have been fully aware of the cost in human lives.

One of the most common tropes of time travel storytelling is the idea that changing the past can change the future. This idea has inspired countless science fiction tales from Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" (1953) to the Back to the Future and Terminator movie series. That never comes up in this book. Hank devotes little time to worrying about how a newly modernized, mechanized, and democratic England might affect the future of his home country or anything else. Still, Twain could have anticipated the reader might ask such a question, and he neatly cleans everything up in these chapters. The Church and the knights and the loyal, subservient peasantry destroy everything Hank has created. This tidies up any remaining plot questions, but it is also a powerful statement about how human beings respond to something new. Twain was fully aware of how much distrust people had for the new, even in his supposedly enlightened days of the late 19th century. Hank knows this too—in earlier chapters he makes repeated references to the fact that you can't hurry along certain types of progress. But he got overconfident after his success against Sir Sagramor, and now he pays the price.

Merlin is allowed his revenge in these chapters. Somehow he is the one who sends Hank back through time. Twain is appropriately murky about the details of this, especially since Merlin has so often been presented as an incompetent charlatan. But Twain never really explained how Hank got back to the 6th century in the first place, other than being hit on the head. He trusts his audience will go along for the ride without digging too deeply into the details, and he is right.

There is genuine grief in these last chapters. Hank uses the technology to defend himself and his boys, but he is troubled by so much death. Later, Clarence grieves the loss of his friend and mentor. And when the reader is returned to the "framing story," the hallucinating old man—clearly Hank—is calling for Sandy and Hello-Central. Life is not easy for any of us, Twain seems to say, no matter what century we live in.

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