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In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, how does Hank react to the Arthurian...

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ohdd | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 26, 2012 at 1:15 AM via web

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In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, how does Hank react to the Arthurian culture?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 26, 2012 at 1:40 AM (Answer #1)

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a famous novel by Mark Twain, published in 1889, and considered one of his great works of satire.

Hank, the protagonist, is a modern man who finds himself abruptly transported to medieval England, where he becomes an important figure in King Arthur's court. Because he is a modern man, Hank takes it on himself to modernize the culture of the time, introducing electricity, telephone communication, and new standards of education; interestingly, Hank keeps his modern-educated people away from the general public, styling himself as a magician to keep his influence among the "ignorant public."

Well, it was a curious country, and full of interest. And the people! They were the quaintest and simplest and trustingest race; why, they were nothing but rabbits. It was pitiful for a person born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble and hearty outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church and nobility; as if they had any more occasion to love and honor king and Church and noble than a slave has to love and honor the lash, or a dog has to love and honor the stranger that kicks him!

Hank's modern condescension towards the people of the time gives him an attitude of royalty, the very thing he claims is "insulting," because it allows him to remain in the higher offices of the court; although he travels as a peasant to experience their lives, he uses his knowledge to remain societally above their level.

My works showed what a despot could do with the resources of a kingdom at his command. Unsuspected by this dark land, I had the civilization of the nineteenth century booming under its very nose!

He is also distrustful of the Church, knowing what influence it has on the common people, and so takes steps to defend himself and his ideas from accusations of heresy; Arthur likes and trusts him, so he has royal protection, but Hank knows from history how fickle public opinion is and how fragile his station would be if the Church turned on him.

As for the general condition of the country, it was as it had been when I arrived in it, to all intents and purposes. I had made changes, but they were necessarily slight, and they were not noticeable. Thus far, I had not even meddled with taxation, outside of the taxes which provided the royal revenues. I had systematized those, and put the service on an effective and righteous basis. As a result, these revenues were already quadrupled, and yet the burden was so much more equably distributed than before, that all the kingdom felt a sense of relief, and the praises of my administration were hearty and general.
(All Quotes: Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, eNotes eText)

Hank's anti-royal sentiments slowly spread to society; he knows that financial burden creates resentment, and so his "slight" alterations to the royal government allow the peasantry to relax, and therefore not think about revolution or rebellion. Since he is creating his 19th-century civilization privately, he cannot afford to be too public, but he also genuinely wants to help the peasants in their feudal and futile lives; this reflects the common Exploration-Age sentiment that native peoples need to be civilized "for their own good," a practice which in history and in this novel ends in disaster.

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