The Prince and the Pauper is Mark Twain’s first attempt at writing historical fiction. Stylistically, the novel is very different from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). It combines his fascination with Europe’s romantic past with his natural bent for satirizing the injustices and social conventions of his own age. He was to do the same later, to far better effect, in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) and, with less success, in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1896).
In The Prince and the Pauper, Twain begins by challenging authority, but in the end, he submits to it. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, he also challenges authority. The earlier book is also more optimistic, because it reflects Twain’s belief in progress.
Although twenty-first century readers think of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as children’s books, The Prince and the Pauper is the only novel Twain ever wrote specifically for children, especially his two young daughters. He aims the other two books at general audiences of all ages. Except for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), children’s literature was very didactic up to this time, and contemporary reviewers did not know what to make of it. Carroll and Twain introduced the...
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