The concept of time travel was not a subject new for fiction. However, it was quite a leap for the like of Mark Twain who has been writing about clear-cut fiction (To Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn) before he wrote something purely out of fantasy. The Legend of King Arthur arguably does not have a historical base; it is arguably a tale that gave one of this world’s strongest nations its foundation. Indeed, England’s rich traditions would not be complete without this great legend of the King.
Such tradition must have caught the fancy of Mark Twain for in this book, he placed a Yankee, an American to the core, in the midst of England’s most precious fictional knights and in the book, Mark twain made the particular American powerful as he had the benefit of 1200 years of mankind advancement. Mark Twain did not embellish on the time travel itself. The Yankee just knocked his head and managed to wake up in King Arthur’s court. Of course, he was ridiculed because he talks funny and dresses weird and Merlin himself sentenced him to burn at the stake, like a woman accused of making a pact with the devil.
It just so happened that the Yankee has the benefit of luck. He remembered from his history lessons the great eclipse that will happen and at the time of his burning at that. He used this advanced knowledge to get himself out of death and because he was cunning enough to be a great actor and convince the citizenry of his powers, he was elevated to a position equal to that of the King or the Pope. He even surpassed the great Merlin in rank. Merlin, of course cannot allow this, hence a power struggle between the Yankee and Merlin ensued but what use is Merlin’s incantations to science and technology?
As the book trivialized, chanting of magic spells cannot really repair a leak as much as good, old repair can. Merlin lost and the Yankee then introduced more modernization to the court, attempting to abolish monarchy. How Mark Twain must have enjoyed writing this novel. The Yankee introduced the then modern American way of living- telephones, public education system, newspaper publications, factories – all these aimed to destroy Arthur’s romanticized and chivalrous kingdom. It is like the American revenge to the British Empire for colonizing them and treating them like heathens for centuries.
At this time in the 19th century and even to this date in 2010, there are a lot of British snobs who look down on Americans. This was Mark Twain’s fantasy- had this book happened in reality, then the British will probably know some humility and perhaps make Americans superior to the British citizenry. The 6th century Britain could certainly use introduction to the modern world. Economics was developed by the Yankee; industrialization was commenced yet despite all these contributions, the King refused to get out of his chivalric way of living.
The Yankee, being weird yet intelligent was despised by fellow noblemen. His rise to prominence angered the others who were bested by the weird man who talks funny and seems to be loved by the people. Many people devised his ruin and eventually succeeded. The ending of the book raises some eyebrows; the Yankee was cursed by Merlin to sleep for 1300 years, transporting him back to the day and age he initially came from. Mark Twain puts the elements of “what if” in his readers’ mind as with the ending, the readers will think, “Hey, this could be real after all”.
Overall, despite being a fantasy, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court shows Mark Twain’s disdain for romanticism. The Yankee’s logic and intellect reflects how stupid chivalric people were. The most chivalrous time was arguably in King Arthur’s court and Sir Lancelot and Guinevere’s love story was most romanticized about and Mark Twain in this book showed how silly all of these are. Works Cited: Twain, Mark. “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. ” 1889. New York: Bantam Classic, 1983.