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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
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Come and hear the strange tail of The Boss Hank Morgan, a modern day (at the time of publication) Connecticut Yankee who inexplicably finds himself transported to the court of the legendary King Arthur (as the title of the book implies). Hank, or simply, The Boss, as he comes to be most frequently known, quickly uses his modern day knowledge and education to pass himself off as a great magician, to get himself out of all sorts of surprising, (and frequently amusing) situations, as well as to advance the technological and cultural status of the nation in which he finds himself.

In the rather un-subtle sub-text of the story, Twain uses The Boss to express a surprisingly pragmatic and frequently contradictory philosophy. The Boss explores the relative merits of Democracy, and Monarchy, he expresses his views on the “Nature v. Nurture” debate, he frequently speaks forcefully against an established Church, but just as strongly advocates for religion and a variety of churches (just not a compulsory one) and he devotes at least one afternoon to introducing his companions to the concept of inflation. In a far more subtle, yet no less forceful manner, the Boss shares with the reader some views about taxation, slavery (both literal and wage slavery), trade unions, the origins of the German language, the nature of marriage, and probably most powerfully, death.

It is a tall order for a relatively brief text, but Twain manages it all with surprising clarity. No one will agree fully with the Boss on all of these matters, and I would be surprised if Twain himself would. In fact the Boss’s views are so pragmatic, and often contradictory, the reader is left to wonder if Twain himself is alternately speaking through the Boss, and setting him up as a straw man. Either way it is a delightful story and a great piece of American Literature, to say nothing of an excellent argument for education.

First Page:

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

by

MARK TWAIN (Samuel L. Clemens)

PREFACE

The ungentle laws and customs touched upon in this tale are historical, and the episodes which are used to illustrate them are also historical. It is not pretended that these laws and customs existed in England in the sixth century; no, it is only pretended that inasmuch as they existed in the English and other civilizations of far later times, it is safe to consider that it is no libel upon the sixth century to suppose them to have been in practice in that day also. One is quite justified in inferring that whatever one of these laws or customs was lacking in that remote time, its place was competently filled by a worse one.

The question as to whether there is such a thing as divine right of kings is not settled in this book. It was found too difficult. That the executive head of a nation should be a person of lofty character and extraordinary ability, was manifest and indisputable; that none but the Deity could select that head unerringly, was also manifest and indisputable; that the Deity ought to make that selection, then, was likewise manifest and indisputable; consequently, that He does make it, as claimed, was an unavoidable deduction... Continue reading book >>


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Reviews (Rated: 5 Stars - 2 reviews)

Reviewer: - September 23, 2009
Subject: Great reading
Thoroughly enjoyed the reading
Reviewer: - July 26, 2008
Subject: A very characterful reading
I have long thought I ought to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, but have never got around to it. I've enjoyed most of the Mark Twain I have read, and I expected to enjoy this too. The story I actually found quite disappointing. The tone is quite didactic, and the references to "modern" times are too obvious to miss, and too clunky to fit easily into the story. I would have stopped listening if it hadn't been for the superb quality of John Greenman's reading. The characters are subtly, but distinctly, voiced. Hank has an appropriately bossy, cocksure tone, leavened occasionally with wonderful notes of irony. The people from King Arthur's time sound suitably naive and credulous. Old people sound old, young people sound young, nobles sound arrogant, and poor people sound beaten down. I can't recommend this reading highly enough.


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