What are the social backgrounds of Prince Edward Tudor and the pauper Tom Canty in Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Prince Edward Tudor comes from a royal background; as a prince, he lives a privileged lifestyle of grandeur and ease. Tom Canty is born into poverty; as a member of the impoverished class, his social standing is far beneath that of the prince's.

Tom Canty's family shares a dilapidated house with other "wretchedly poor families" at Offal Court. The whole family lives in a room on the third floor of the house. While his father and mother sleep on a bed of sorts, Tom, his grandmother, and his two sisters must made do with haphazard piles of straw on the floor. Tom's father, John Canty, is a thief, while the grandmother and the children work as beggars. Tom is regularly beaten by his father and grandmother for returning home empty-handed at night. Even Tom's mother is beaten by his father if she is caught slipping Tom small morsels of food.

Meanwhile, drunken brawls and riots regularly occur at Offal Court; in all, it is an unpleasant place to live. In the midst of such daily misery, Tom dreams of becoming a prince and rising above his circumstances.

His royal counterpart, Prince Edward, lives in luxury. He has his own servants and is always clothed in silks and satins. While Tom is the "Prince of Poverty," Edward is the "Prince of Limitless Plenty." When Prince Edward speaks, his servants obey him and his subjects stand in awe of him. Because of their social backgrounds, Tom and Edward live diametrically-opposed lives.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial