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

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TEACHING GUIDE: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT

CHAPTER 22: “THE HOLY FOUNTAIN”

Summary

Before sunset, Sandy and the Boss reach the Holy Valley. The abbots are delighted to have the Boss with them. They ask The Boss to start work immediately but he must wait for his equipment to arrive. He also wants to see Merlin give up in defeat, as well. The next day, he visits the site and inspects the well. As expected, there is a hole in it that simply needs to be plugged. It is a simple job but Morgan informs the monks that it is a difficult task and says he will do his best.

Later in the day, he visits the hermits. The hermits are strange fanatical worshippers who are naked and eat only fruits and nuts. They make strange movements as part of their “worship” and the common people are so amazed by their oddness, they worship the hermits. The Boss for his part is impressed by a great hermit who sits on a high platform and turns himself while bowing his body to his feet as an act of prayer. He decides to make use of the hermit, training him to propel a sewing machine and therefore manufacture shirts. He observes other hermits sitting in different postures but finds it difficult to describe them. Instead, he recommends that people read the Lives of the Saints.

Notes

Twain is amused at the complexities and contradictions of man in this chapter. The pilgrims visit the valley to witness the water miracle. So when they are informed that the water has dried up at the Valley, it is expected that they will cancel their trip and express disappointment. However, their reaction to the news is just the opposite. The travelers are as eager as before to visit the valley but now they are interested to see the dried up valley. Curiosity overtakes disappointment in the pilgrims. The Boss is puzzled by their attitude and expresses his thought that “there is no accounting for human beings.”


Twain also satirizes the religious order in this chapter. The monks want the Boss to work a miracle to resume the water supply in the well; at the same time they want him to act according to the norms of the church. They tell the Boss “And see thou do it with enchantments that be holy, for the church will not endure that work in her cause be done by devil’s magic.” The monks at the valley are hypocritical in their attitude.

Twain’s description of the hermits is inspired by Lackey’s Lives of the Saints and he goes as far as to refer his reader to this book for more information on the contortionist hermits. However, through Morgan, he also ridicules the hermits who are looked upon as men of God by the common man. The Boss sees the elevation of these hermits to saints is a gross misapplication of the people’s respect, since the hermits’ various contortions seem designed only to impress and amaze the common man. Ever the businessman, The Boss makes use of one of hermits to further his business scheme and make a profit in the bargain.


CHAPTER 23: “RESTORATION OF THE FOUNTAIN”

Summary

Merlin uses his magical powers to the best of his abilities, but fails in his attempt to restore the fountain. He states it is impossible. At that point, The Boss enters with assistance and equipment and proceeds to repair the well. He uses fireworks and other flashy effects to glamorize his work, then invites all the people to witness the magical event. As the audience watch expectantly, water gushes forth from the chapel after a display of fireworks. The abbot is overwhelmed and expresses gratitude to The Boss for saving the Holy Valley. Merlin leaves, having once again been disgraced, and The Boss is a hero again.

Notes

The chapter again reveals the desire of The Boss to glorify his achievement and earn recognition. It also shows his fierce competitiveness, as he tries once again to humiliate and defeat Merlin. The Boss makes use of his mechanical skill to block the leak and channel the water through a pipe to the Chapel. After the water fills up in the well, he lights up “Greek fires” (roman candles) before offering magical prayers to the almighty. Then he releases the water through the pipe so that it gushes out through the Chapel. He heightens the effect of the miracle to excite his audience. The Boss is applauded once again and his imaged is enhanced further.


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