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

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One day, a young lady comes to court to narrate the plight of forty-five princesses held captive by three horrible brothers who each possess four arms and one eye. The knights believe her story and the King sends the Boss to rescue the ladies. Morgan leaves with the young lady. People admire him as he positions himself on the horse with his beautiful partner behind him.


Stories of damsels in distress and knights in shining armors are common in Camelot. As in fairy tales, ladies are always in distress and chivalrous men are waiting to rescue them. The Knights of the Round Table consider it their highest calling in life (other than serving Arthur) to rescue damsels. When the young lady narrates the story of forty-five princesses held in captivity by three monstrous brothers, the King designates the responsibility of rescuing them to the Boss. Morgan is reluctant to accept the offer, but Clarence naturally feels proud to be honored with the task.

Mark Twain highlights the difference in attitude between the people of the ancient period and the present one. In the medieval times, it was usual practice to undertake adventurous trails and accompany young maidens on these trips. Morgan, unused to such customs, is reluctant to undertake this journey. As well, he is more than a little concerned about the appearance of impropriety presented in his traveling across the country with a beautiful young girl. Whereas in the 6th century such an act is perfectly acceptable, in nineteenth century Yankee America, it is scandalous.

Mark Twain also provides a contrast between the age of Romance and the Age of Reason in this chapter. In the medieval romantic age people believed in the existence of ogres and supernatural elements. These simple people are illiterate so verbal stories of adventure excite them without eliciting skepticism or doubt. However, the Boss is skeptical. He questions the young girl and when she does not know the answers to his questions or even directions to the place of this abduction and imprisonment, he becomes irritated.



They cross the city and ride through the countryside. The Boss is in armor, and becomes very hot and irritable. His movements are restricted, and he is unable to take out his handkerchief to wipe his sweat. He feels miserable and finally asks the young girl, whom he calls Sandy, to pour water inside his armor. She does so, and they proceed


In medieval legends and stories of adventure like Cervantes’ Don Quixote the knight in shining armor is projected as a chivalrous man, prepared to undertake the perils of life in order to rescue fair maidens. In this novel, Twain satirizes those conventional heroes by presenting his protagonist in a contrary manner. Morgan does not relish the idea of undertaking a futile search and accompanying a young lady. Instead of being chivalrous, he talks to Sandy curtly and drills her with questions. When she is unable to give proper answers, he calls her “innocent and idiotic.” During the journey, he ignores her till he needs her help. He is angry that her presence intrudes upon his thoughts. As well, he is far from a heroic knight. He is miserable and hot, sweating profusely inside his armor.

Mark Twain’s descriptive ability comes to the fore as he describes the countryside and the reaction of the protagonist to the change of climate. About the scenery, Twain writes, “It was most lovely and pleasant in those sylvan solitudes in the early, cool morning in the first freshness of autumn.” However, later in the day it begins to get hot and the Boss starts feeling uncomfortable. In the words of Morgan, “The first ten or fifteen times I wanted my handkerchief --- it was nag, nag, nag, right along, and no rest; I couldn’t get it out of my mind; and so at last I lost my temper. --- You see I had my handkerchief in my helmet; and some other things, but it was that kind of a helmet that you can’t take off by yourself...and it was bitter and aggravating to have the salt sweat keep trickling down into my eyes.” The pathetic picture of the hero in his heavy costumes, struggling to remove his helmet and wiping his sweat is a far cry from the portrait of the dashing knights of the medieval legends.

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