Course Hero. "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Study Guide." Course Hero. 22 Mar. 2018. Web. 8 June 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Connecticut-Yankee-in-King-Arthurs-Court/>.
Course Hero. (2018, March 22). A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Connecticut-Yankee-in-King-Arthurs-Court/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Study Guide." March 22, 2018. Accessed June 8, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Connecticut-Yankee-in-King-Arthurs-Court/.
Course Hero, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Study Guide," March 22, 2018, accessed June 8, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Connecticut-Yankee-in-King-Arthurs-Court/.
Whatever one of these laws or customs was lacking in that remote time, its place was competently filled by a worse one.
Twain is direct about his judgment of European laws. This statement establishes a key theme of the book: the contrast between European ideas and American ideas, and Twain's belief that American ideas are superior.
I judged I would have the start of the best-educated man in the kingdom by a matter of thirteen hundred years.
This statement tells a lot about Hank. He is ambitious, but he is also realistic. He knows most of his advantages stem from an educational system that didn't exist in King Arthur's time.
It is no use to throw a good thing away merely because the market isn't ripe yet.
This line works on two levels: Hank's observation about life in the 6th century, and also Twain's observation about his own life and career. Hank recognizes early on that he will have to build up to certain key ideas, such as democracy and the abolition of slavery. In real life, Twain asked for his autobiography to be held back 100 years after his death. He did this because he wanted to be honest about certain topics and felt a later audience would be more open to his ideas.
Inherited ideas are a curious thing ... I had mine, the king and his people had theirs.
This is a profound recognition on Hank's part. He acknowledges the power of ideas in which are trained from birth. Twain may have been thinking about discriminatory attitudes toward African Americans, which were certainly inherited ideas in the United States during Twain's life.
It may be that this girl had a fact in her somewhere, but I don't believe you could have sluiced it out with a hydraulic.
Twain became famous as a writer for his uniquely American way of saying things. This moment—the first conversation between Hank and Sandy—is a perfect example. Hank questions Sandy and can get few details out of her about their supposed quest. But rather than prosaically saying so, Twain uses the imagery of engineering to suggest Hank might have needed machinery to extract a fact from Sandy.
You see my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its office-holders.
Hank expresses a fairly modern idea of loyalty, or what might today be called patriotism. In the Middle Ages, people did not necessarily think of their "country" as being all of England or France or Germany. Their "country" was far more likely to refer to the small region which was ruled by their particular lord. Thus loyalty to your "country" was loyalty to your lord. In the pre-Civil-War period, some Southerners saw themselves as citizens of their state first and their country second. Twain, on the other hand, expresses the Northerner's view: you are an American first, and that is more important than smaller loyalties.
Their very imagination was dead. When you can say that of a man, he has struck bottom, I reckon; there is no lower deep for him.
Hank is an imaginative person, as is Twain. To him, a person who cannot use his imagination might as well be dead. This is another reason Hank feels the "freemen" of King Arthur's England are not really free. If their lives are so miserable they cannot even imagine anything different, then how free are they?
Intellectual "work" is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward.
Hank differentiates between physical labor and intellectual work, and it is clear which he prefers. In true egalitarian fashion, Hank assumes anyone could do the intellectual work he does. But it is unlikely that the common peasants in Arthur's kingdom would be capable of intellectual work, since they have never been taught to think. Hank plans to address that, which is why one of his earliest innovations is a school system.
The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition ... a king in commoner's garb bearing death in his arms.
To Hank—and to Twain—this is the moment when King Arthur proves himself to be noble. When Arthur risks his own life so a dying mother can hold her dying child once more. It is not a moment that traditional chivalrous tales would honor with a statue, but Hank feels King Arthur deserves one for it.
I could look into the future and see her [England] erect statues and monuments to her unspeakable Georges and other royals ... and leave unhonored the creators of this world.
Twain uses Hank to argue for his own idea of a pantheon of greatness: not royals, but genius inventors. Among the creators, Twain names Gutenberg (inventor of the printing press), Watt (inventor of an improved steam engine), Arkwright (developer of factory machinery and systems), Whitney (inventor of the cotton gin), Morse (inventor of the telegraph), Stephenson (inventor of the locomotive), and Bell (inventor of the telephone). In Hank's mind—and Twain's mind—these are the people that matter and the ones who should be recognized.
The fact is, the king was a good deal more than a king, he was a man; and ... you can't knock it out of him.
Although he is predisposed to resent the monarchy, Hank grows to have a certain admiration for King Arthur. There are many things he thinks the king does wrong, but he admires the king's inner strength. He esteems the king's ability to stand up for himself even when he is mistreated and beaten by the slave trader.
Somehow, every time the magic of fol-de-rol tried conclusions with the magic of science, the magic of fol-de-rol got left.
Hank contrasts Merlin's magic (the magic of fol-de-rol) with his own magic (the magic of science), and he is clear on who will win. Magic, in Hank's mind, is a con, a trick, and science can beat it every time.
A royal family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful as any other royal family, they would know as much.
Twain had a well-known fondness for cats. Here the narrator reports that Clarence argues that a ruling family of cats might be the same—or even better—than a ruling family of humans. Clarence goes through a long list of the ways in which cat rulers might be equivalent to human royalty. The extended metaphor is humorous, but it also serves as another comment on Twain's view of the monarchy: royalty could be kept as pets, as long as they didn't try to do anything important.
You know that yourself, if you've watched your child through the Valley of the Shadow and seen it come back to life.
Several of Twain's children died before him, as did his wife. Twain knows something about sitting by a sickbed and wondering if his child will get well again. Here he puts those strong emotions into a brief sentence from Hank about Hello-Central. In addition to expressing his own feelings, Twain takes this opportunity to make it clear that Hank genuinely loves Hello-Central.
You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
Hank is waiting for the knights to attack him and his "boys" in their cave. He thinks he sees people lining the ditch near their defenses, but he is reluctant to trust his eyes. In fact, he is correct and the knights he sees will begin their offensive against his stronghold in just a few hours.