A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was the first book that Mark Twain finished after publishing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Because of its setting, it often is classified as one of his historical novels, along with The Prince and the Pauper (1882) and Joan of Arc (1896), but it has little in common with either. Of the work that he published during his lifetime, the novel most closely resembles his 1879 short story “The Great Revolution in Pitcairn,” also about an American trying to modernize an archaic society.
The germ of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court goes back to Twain’s 1866 visit to Hawaii, which made him want to write a novel exploring the islanders’ feudalistic characteristics. He started this book in 1884 but soon abandoned it and turned instead to a parody of medieval England. His new target was Arthurian romances, whose popularity Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (1859-1885) had helped to revive. Twain’s novel incorporated some elements that he had intended for his Hawaiian novel; for example, he modeled King Arthur partly on Hawaii’s King Kamehameha V.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the first novel-length treatment of travel into the past. Twain’s use of time travel as a plot device may have been influenced by Edward Bellamy’s future-travel story Looking Backward: 2000-1887...
(The entire section is 572 words.)