illustration of the prince and the pauper standing back to back with a castle on the prince's side and a low building on the pauper's

The Prince and the Pauper

by Mark Twain
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What is the Offal Court like?  

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In the novel The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, Offal Court is literally an awful place. It is not far from London Bridge and is comprised of "very narrow, crooked, and dirty streets." Tom Canty lives in a dreadful house that Twain describes as a "foul little pocket" on Offal Court (Chapter II). Even though all the houses are three stories, each story juts out over the other in an odd manner. Tom's entire family lives in one room on the third floor in one of these houses. Tom's house is "small, decayed, and rickety" (Chapter II).

You would not want to live on Offal Court because its inhabitants are beggars, thieves, and drunks. This includes Tom's father, John Canty, who is a thief and Tom's grandmother who is a beggar. As well, both his father and grandmother are drunks. Twain calls them fiends. Brawls are commonplace, and they occur every night. Even worse, these fights take place all night long. Everyone who lives on this street is wretchedly poor and hungry. Offal Court is a horrible place in the most sordid area of London. Tom can only escape the reality of Offal Court through his daydreams and imagination.

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Tom Canty, who was born on the same day as Prince Edward, lived in Offal Court. Offal Court was a reserve of the poor families in London. In the story, it was stated that although London streets were narrow, dirty and crooked, the situation was worse in the area where Tom and his family lived. The place was filthy, and the houses were dilapidated.  Offal Court was basically a storied building which was decayed, shaky and inhabited by poor families. Among them was Tom’s family, who occupied the third floor. The houses were small, with a general area which was not partitioned. In Tom’s case, the parents turned one corner into their bedroom while the rest of the floor doubled as the children’s’ bedroom. They had no beds; instead they used old straw and torn blankets. Drunkenness and violence were prevalent in the area. In Tom’s home, both his father and grandmother were violent drunks.

The house which Tom's father lived in was up a foul little pocket called Offal Court, out of Pudding Lane. It was small, decayed, and rickety, but it was packed full of wretchedly poor families.

All Offal Court was just such another hive as Canty's house. Drunkenness, riot and brawling were the order, there, every night and nearly all night long.

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