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Did the main characters in The Prince and the Pauper try to lead a moral life?

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amy-2014 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:25 PM via web

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Did the main characters in The Prince and the Pauper try to lead a moral life?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 7, 2012 at 4:20 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that Twain is seeking to make the argument that in a political sense, morality is defined by just rulers.  In this sense, both Edward and Tom Canty do seek to lead moral lives.  When Tom assumes political leadership, he does not display corrupt virtues.  He does not use the political trust to make himself benefit.  Rather, he rules in a just and politically moral way.  When confronted with the right thing to do, Tom does not conceal the truth.  In this, he acts in both a ethically moral manner as well as in a politically moral manner.  In much the same way, Edward recognizes the struggle of the common person.  This is something that he lacked as he lived in the Royal Confines.  Edward's political morality compels him to not embrace a life of crime, but rather comprehend the struggles of the people he knows he will eventually lead.  Edward does not succumb to the lure of vice, instead opting for a transcendent notion of the good where there is understanding through suffering and not capitulation to it.  In this, the Prince leads an ethically moral life en route to a politically moral one.  Twain seems to be convinced that political morality consists of not violating the public trust, something both characters display in their times as rulers.  He als seems to be suggesting that individuals can be confronted with freedom and not necessarily surrender to the more sinister elements of consciousness.  While there might have been a deception, it is not one done in immorality and depravity.  Twain asks us to assess morality in a more contextual manner, revealing complexity and intricacy to human consciousness.

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