A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

by Mark Twain

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Overview

This novel tells the story of Hank Morgan, the quintessential self-reliant New Englander who brings to King Arthur’s Age of Chivalry the “great and beneficent” miracles of nineteenth-century engineering and American ingenuity. Through the collision of past and present, Twain exposes the insubstantiality of both utopias, destroying the myth of the romantic ideal as well as his own era’s faith in scientific and social progress.

A central document in American intellectual history, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is at once a hilarious comedy of anachronisms and incongruities, a romantic fantasy, a utopian vision, and a savage, anarchic social satire that only one of America’s greatest writers could pen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553211436
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1983
Series: Bantam Classics Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 274
Sales rank: 643,994
Product dimensions: 4.30(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.78(d)
Lexile: 1020L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, led one of the most exciting and adventuresome of literary lives. Raised in the river town of Hannibal, Missouri, Twain had to leave school at age twelve to seek work. He was successfully a journeyman printer, a steamboat pilot, a halfhearted Confederate soldier (for a few weeks), and a prospector, miner, a reporter in the western territories. With the publication in 1865 of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” Twain gained national attention as a frontier humorist, and with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1855), he was acknowledged by the literary establishment as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce.

In 1880 Twain began promoting and financing heavily the ill-fated Paige typesetter, an invention designed to make the printing process fully automatic. This enterprise drained his energy and funds for almost fifteen years, until it drove him to the brink of bankruptcy. Ironically at the height of his naively optimistic involvement in his technological “wonder,” he published his satirical A Connecticut Yankee in King’s Arthur’s Court (1889), as though the writer in him could see the dangers the investor in him was blind to.

Toward the end of his life, plagued by personal tragedy and financial failure, Mark Twain grew more and more pessimistic–an outlook not alleviated by his natural skepticism and sarcasm. Though his fame continued to widen. Twain spent his last years in gloom and exasperation, writing fables about “the damned human race.”

Date of Birth:

November 30, 1835

Date of Death:

April 21, 1910

Place of Birth:

Florida, Missouri

Place of Death:

Redding, Connecticut

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I
Camelot

Camelot-Camelot," said I to myself. "I don't seem to remember hearing of it before. Name of the asylum, likely."

It was a soft, reposeful summer landscape, as lovely as a dream, and as lonesome as Sunday. The air was full of the smell of flowers, and the buzzing of insects, and the twittering of birds, and there were no people, no wagons, there was no stir of life, nothing going on. The road was mainly a winding path with hoofprints in it, and now and then a faint trace of wheels on either side in the grass-wheels that apparently had a tire as broad as one's hand.

Presently a fair slip of a girl, about ten years old, with a cataract of golden hair streaming down over her shoulders, came along. Around her head she wore a hoop of flame-red poppies. It was as sweet an outfit as ever I saw, what there was of it. She walked indolently along, with a mind at rest, its peace reflected in her innocent face. The circus man paid no attention to her; didn't even seem to see her. And she-she was no more startled at his fantastic make-up than if she was used to his like every day of her life. She was going by as indifferently as she might have gone by a couple of cows; but when she happened to notice me, then there was a change! Up went her hands, and she was turned to stone; her mouth dropped open, her eyes stared wide and timorously, she was the picture of astonished curiosity touched with fear. And there she stood gazing, in a sort of stupefied fascination, till we turned a corner of the wood and were lost to her view. That she should be startled at me instead of at the other man, was too many for me; I couldn't make head or tail of it. And that she should seem to consider me a spectacle, and totally overlook her own merits in that respect, was another puzzling thing, and a display of magnanimity, too, that was surprising in one so young. There was food for thought here. I moved along as one in a dream.

As we approached the town, signs of life began to appear. At intervals we passed a wretched cabin, with a thatched roof, and about it small fields and garden patches in an indifferent state of cultivation. There were people, too; brawny men, with long, coarse, uncombed hair that hung down over their faces and made them look like animals. They and the women, as a rule, wore a coarse tow-linen robe that came well below the knee, and a rude sort of sandals, and many wore an iron collar. The small boys and girls were always naked; but nobody seemed to know it. All of these people stared at me, talked about me, ran into the huts and fetched out their families to gape at me; but nobody ever noticed that other fellow, except to make him humble salutation and get no response for their pains.

In the town were some substantial windowless houses of stone scattered among a wilderness of thatched cabins; the streets were mere crooked alleys, and unpaved; troops of dogs and nude children played in the sun and made life and noise; hogs roamed and rooted contentedly about, and one of them lay in a reeking wallow in the middle of the main thoroughfare and suckled her family. Presently there was a distant blare of military music; it came nearer, still nearer, and soon a noble cavalcade wound into view, glorious with plumed helmets and flashing mail and flaunting banners and rich doublets and horse-cloths and gilded spearheads; and through the muck and swine, and naked brats, and joyous dogs, and shabby huts it took its gallant way, and in its wake we followed. Followed through one winding alley and then another,-and climbing, always climbing-till at last we gained the breezy height where the huge castle stood. There was an exchange of bugle blasts; then a parley from the walls, where men-at-arms, in hauberk and morion marched back and forth with halberd at shoulder under flapping banners with the rude figure of a dragon displayed upon them; and then the great gates were flung open, the drawbridge was lowered, and the head of the cavalcade swept forward under the frowning arches; and we, following, soon found ourselves in a great paved court, with towers and turrets stretching up into the blue air on all the four sides; and all about us the dismount was going on, and much greeting and ceremony, and running to and fro, and a gay display of moving and intermingling colors, and an altogether pleasant stir and noise and confusion.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments vii

The Text of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court 1

Contexts 383

Sources 385

[The Natural History of Morals] W. E. H. Leeky 386

[The Saints of the Desert] 388

Composition and Publication 391

Related Documents 392

The "Tournament" in a.d. 1870 392

[The Herald's Report of Twain's Speech at Governor's Island] 394

The New Dynasty 397

Enchantments and Enchanters 403

Notebook and Journal Entries 405

A Connecticut Yankee in Letters 409

To Mary Mason Fairbanks, November 16, 1886 409

To Charles L. Webster, August 3, 1887 410

To Theodore Crane, October 5, 1888 410

From Edmund Clarence Stedman, July 7, 1889 411

To William Dean Howells, August 5, 1889 413

To William Dean Howells, August 24, 1889 413

To William Dean Howells, September 22, 1889 414

To William Dean Howells, November 22, 1889 415

To William Dean Howells, December 23, 1889 415

To Sylvester Baxter, November 20, 1889 415

Dan Beard's Illustrations 417

[Making the Illustrations for A Connecticut Yankee] Daniel Carter Beard 417

[The Character of the Yankee] Daniel Carter Beard 419

To Dan Beard, August 28, 1989 Mark Twain 419

To a Reader, December 20, 1889 Mark Twain 420

Reading the Illustrations in A Connecticut Yankee Beverly David Ray Sapirstein 420

Criticism 427

Early Criticism 429

[Nothing More Delicious] Sylvester Baxter 429

[His Wonder-Story] William Dean Howells 432

[King Arthur or Jay Gould?] The London Daily Telegraph 436

Mark Twain's New Book: A Satirical Attack on English Institutions William T. Stead 440

[This Melancholy Product of the American Mind] The Boston Literary World 443

Recent Criticism 445

"Well, My Book Is Written-Let It Go. …": The Making of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Howard G. Baetzhold 445

The Use of History in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee Howard G. Baetzhold 477

The Ideas in a Dream Henry Nash Smith 492

The Meaning of A Connecticut Yankee Everett Carter 501

The Quarrel with Romance Bruce Michelson 520

Hank Morgan's and Mark Twain's Queer Anxieties Tison Pugh 536

A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of Wu Chih Tien Hsuan Hsu 547

Compositional Chronology 561

Selected Bibliography 563

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Dufris's enthusiastic narration is perfect; the deep drawl he produces might very well be the voice of Twain himself, and his pacing and comedic timing will delight listeners." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Audio Review

Reading Group Guide

1.  How does Hank Morgan change throughout the novel? Is this change for the better, or for worse? How does his speech reflect his change in attitude?

2.  The theme of the “mysterious stranger” (an outsider who enters a community or circle and enacts some kind of disruption) often appears in Twain’s works. How does Hank use his status as an “outsider” to his advantage? What does he bring from the outside that benefits sixth-century England? Into which world does Hank ultimately fit?

3.  What is Hank Morgan’s view of the Catholic church?

4.  Many critics consider A Connecticut Yankee to be Twain’s most flawed work because he simply wanted to do “too much.” Do you agree? If so, why?

5.  Consider the end of the novel. What statement does Twain make with this ending? Do you feel it is a fulfilling way to end the book?

Customer Reviews