Study Guide: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court|
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FREE NOTES: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT
In the midst of telling this, the Yankee becomes very sleepy. He offers the
narrator a written record of his experiences then leaves. The narrator
looks at the manuscript, which is yellowed with age and cluttered with
words and phrases, some in Latin and he settles in to read.
The choice of narrator is in this case used to frame the novel. It is a strategy often used by authors who want to introduce or commentate on the events before they are recounted, and perhaps interpret the events after they are told. Except for the first and last “chapters”, however, the rest of the story takes place in the 6th century time of King Arthur and has very little authorial intrusion or commentary. This narrator identifies himself as Mark Twain, the author, which makes the story at once more personable and more entertaining. Though the reader will not necessarily believe Mark Twain as the story unfolds, often the use of author as narrator lends a certain “true-to-life” quality to the story. In some narratives of this type, the principal character is spoken of but never seen. That is, the narrator tells a story about a man he heard of or once knew. Twain, however, chooses to present the character and even have him speak. The Yankee, Hank Morgan, is a character in both the frame and the body of the story.
An aura of mystery and suspense is created in this introductory chapter. As the narrator goes around the Warwick castle, he notices a hole in an ancient piece of an armor. The stranger, Hank Morgan, recognizes the hole and claims he made it when fighting that particular knight. The curiosity of Twain as well as the reader is aroused and the groundwork for the entire story is laid.
The appearance of the stranger at Twain’s door is not unexpected, since the expectation has already been set up that he has quite a story to tell. What is unique about the situation is the fact that he arrives and begins his story, only to become sleepy and leave a manuscript of his tale with the stranger (Mark Twain).
This is the second historical novel written by Twain, the first being The Prince and the Pauper. The first novel was set in the sixteenth century of Henry VIII and Edward Tudor, while A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is set in the sixth-century England of King Arthur. In both novels, Twain juxtaposes the present against the past to compare and contrast the time periods and deliver some social commentary. What is interesting in the end is that Twain’s social commentary on the bygone era as a time of social inequality and political injustice does little to detract his hero, Hank Morgan, from longing to return to that time. The seeming contradiction of authorial voice and character perspective has often been regarded as the central flaw in this novel.
In terms of characterization, the creation of Hank Morgan is especially fitting
in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s
Court. Since Morgan had worked as a gunsmith, a mechanic, an
inventor, and a brawler, he has skills and knowledge that will make him
extraordinary in the time of Camelot. Indeed, he will appear to have the
powers of a magician, as he claims.
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. 09 May 2017