A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Themes

Mark Twain


(Novels for Students)

Science and Technology
With his modern technological knowledge, Hank Morgan is able to quickly make himself one of the most powerful personages in King Arthur’s realm. Hank commands respect by appealing to the superstitions that the common people usually follow. Hank presents himself as a sorcerer more powerful than Merlin, who Hank sees as holding great political influence simply because he knows how to make himself sound important in his stories. When Hank displays knowledge of astronomy in predicting the solar eclipse and knowledge of pyrotechnics by blowing up Merlin’s castle, he is doing things on a large and conspicuous scale so that the common people can marvel at what they perceive to be his powers.

Having earned the sobriquet “The Boss” by fairly simple applications of scientific principles, Hank develops more complex technological advances in private, so that the superstitious population will not revolt in fear. He has telephone and electrical lines run, but close to the ground or underground. When railroad lines are run and newspapers are sold on the street corners, Hank takes care to introduce them gradually so as to not overwhelm the population. The result of this gradualism is that he relies on a secret network of intellectuals to understand his concepts, develop them, and maintain them. When war ravages the country, the forces of ignorance rise up, and all of the scientific and technological advances that he brought from the future are destroyed before they can be misused by the wrong people.

Divine Right
By putting Hank into the royal court, Twain directly addresses the question of the rights and responsibilities of King Arthur. Hank Morgan is quite outspoken about his opinions of royalty. He calls it a delusion, a comfortable myth that the people believed in because it had been taught to them all their lives and had been taught to their parents and grandparents,...

(The entire section is 792 words.)