Study Guide: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court|
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STUDY NOTES: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT
The chapter ends on a note of irony. The King who had once lorded over
his subjects and considered them to be his slaves is now sold as a slave
himself. Even Morgan, who had imposed his ideas on others as The Boss,
is now driven as a slave by his “boss”. Further, the King is sold for
a mere seven dollars, while Morgan is sold for a higher price. Twain suggests
sarcastically that the King has no value without his royal robes or throne.
He echoes his views through the narrator, who remarks, “ Dear, dear, it
only shows that there is nothing diviner about a King than there is about
a tramp, after all. He is just a cheap and hollow artificiality when you
don’t know he is a King. But reveal his quality, and dear me it takes
your very breath away to look at him. I reckon we are all fools. Born
so, no doubt.”
The King is upset that his value is only seven dollars and continues to complain and protest. This attitude upsets the slave master, who is afraid he will not find buyers for slaves who act so oddly. He whips the King often in an effort to remind him of his lowly status. Nevertheless, the King will not be silenced.
During their journey as slaves, the King and The Boss face many hardships and strange incidents. First, they are caught in a snowstorm that kills many of the slaves. To warm them up and keep them moving, the master hits them with his whip. Then a woman comes running toward them, seeking help from the furious mob chasing her. When the master hears that she has been branded as a witch, he orders her to be burnt. As the woman clings to her daughters on her pier, the slaves warm themselves around her.
After this incident, they reach London. There a young woman is being
lead to the pillory for stealing in order to care for her baby. When she
cries in despair that there is no one to look after her baby after her
death, the priest promises to act as the guardian of the child.
This chapter is gloomy. Twain evokes pathos as effectively as he had provoked
laughter earlier. The chapter exposes evils of the medieval age like slavery,
superstition, and capital punishment for petty crimes. A helpless woman
is tortured by the mob and burnt at the stake because she is branded as
a witch. In London, a young woman still suckling her infant is led to
the gallows by her accusers because she had stolen a piece of cloth to
sell it and feed her hungry child. The scene of execution where the priest
offers his prayers before hanging the lady is pitiable and poignant. In
the words of the narrator, “After his prayer, they put the noose around
the young girl’s neck, and they had great trouble to adjust the knot under
her ear, because she was devouring the baby all the time, wildly kissing
it, and snatching it to her face and her breast, and drenching it with
tears, and half moaning, half shrieking all the while, and the baby crying,
and laughing, and kicking its feet with delight over what it took for
romp and play.” The anguish of the young woman contrasted with the happiness
of the infant is so moving that “even the hangman couldn’t stand it.”
Interestingly, the King fails to notice the scenes of misery around him
because he is immersed in self-pity.
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. 09 May 2017