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Study Guide: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

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FREE BOOK NOTES: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT

THEMES

Major Theme

The major theme of the novel is the clash of science with superstition. Hank Morgan revolutionizes sixth century Arthurian England by introducing the science and technology of the nineteenth century. He makes his views on the crude superstitions of the medieval men quite obvious and seeks to modernize them with science and industry. His flaw, however, is using science for his own power at the expense of the people. With his simple knowledge of technology, he does things the medieval men think are magical, and he lets them continue in that misconception. Therefore, he encourages their belief in magic for his own personal elevation. This is a complication of the theme of science and superstition, but one that deserves serious consideration and discussion.



Minor Themes

There are a few minor themes in the novel like environmental determinism and the defeat of pride and haste. As in The Prince and the Pauper, it is apparent that environment determines the actions of the people. The inmates of Camelot are overpowered by religion and are blinded by the authority of the church. Being born and brought up in such an environment, they accept the “Divine right of Kings” and the unjust laws of the land with very little resistance. King Arthur is a wise king and appreciates the enterprise of Hank Morgan but he respects nobility even though they are unintelligent and upholds the authority of the Church even when it is very obviously biased. Even as he travels incognito with The Boss, he occasionally asserts such imperialistic views. However, after experiencing the agony of being a slave and his own imminent death, he protests against slavery and capital punishment. Circumstances make him change his views on the unjust laws of the land.

The defeat of pride and haste is another conspicuous theme in the novel. Hank Morgan’s pride in his superior knowledge makes him display his powers and crave attention. Even though he earns the approval of many, he antagonizes others by his arrogance. His pride also makes him blind to the feelings of simple and illiterate people. He has become like the nobility and clergy he detests. It is no wonder that during his absence from Camelot, he is isolated by the church and punished for his pride.

Hank Morgan wounds the sentiments of the Church and shocks the superstitious people with his revolutionary ideas. In his hurry to modernize Camelot and take the sixth century towards the nineteenth century, he forgets to understand the spirit of the age and the framework of its society. Haste thus wastes the efforts of Morgan, devastates an idyllic land, and hastens his own end.


MOOD

The mood of the novel is light as it humorously exposes the follies and evils of a dark medieval society. Twain ironically presents the predicament of the protagonist as he tries to transform an ancient land with its ignorant people into a technologically developed country comprised of intelligent and educated people. The end of the novel has elements of tragi-comedy, since The Boss loses the land he has come to love and realizes too late the beauty in Camelot’s unrefined sensibilities. Still, there is more to laugh than cry about in the novel.


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