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

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STUDY NOTES: A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT

CHAPTER 34: “THE YANKEE AND THE KING SOLD AS SLAVES”

Summary

To lighten the mood of the traders, Morgan changes the topic of conversation and demonstrates the use of miller-gun to them. However, the traders are too stunned to react positively. To add salt to their injury, the King makes his appearance and starts talking about agriculture, a topic he is not familiar with. The guests are enraged. They call Morgan a traitor and the King a mad man. In a frenzy of excitement, they attack the King.

When Morgan becomes aware of the danger to their life, he urges the King to make an escape with him. As they run, the mob chases them. When they come near a stream, they climb a tree. The tree is set on fire and they surrender to their attackers. A gentleman who arrives on the scene rescues them from the mob. He takes them away on his horse and provides them with board and lodging. The next day, he leads them to a neighboring village. There he presents them at the slave market and sells them as slaves.

Notes

This chapter shows The Boss paying for his earlier behavior. By making a lavish display of his wealth and superior intellect, he distances himself from the men. Further, he forces his revolutionary ideas on the illiterate and simple medieval men and antagonizes them. When his plans misfire, he starts blackmailing them. The traders are frightened out of their wits. When The Boss tries to lighten their mood with the miller-gun, they do not react positively. And when the King makes a fool of himself in front of them, all their pent up emotions are released and they attack His Majesty. By his pompous talk, The Boss has brought about a certain amount of trouble. He who had prided himself for his common sense now feels helpless to save himself and the King.


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.”


CHAPTER 35: “A PITIFUL INCIDENT”

Summary

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.

Notes

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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