A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain—Goodreads Book Review

Originally posted on Goodreads.com.

What would a 19th-century factory boss from New England do if, in a brawl, he was knocked unconscious and awoke in Old England? This is the question Mark Twain considers in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court through the character of Hank Morgan—whose answer is to make gunpowder, pretend to be a wizard, and try to industrialize and republicanize Arthur’s England.

A classic of satire, Twain’s use of a frame narrative allows him to examine, poke fun at, and comment on the, as his character believes, outdated aspects of chivalric England while also doing the same at his character, himself. Like with other narrators, Morgan’s assumption that he understands things best makes him subject to parody, as well. The effect is a complex mix of humor and commentary that, even when it is didactic, is rarely unironically so.

Throughout the work, Twain’s juxtaposition of the American man of progress with the established structures of England’s narrative past concretizes the questions of what had been gained by the development of the American national character, and what may have been lost. As such, it is as much an investigation of Gilded Age culture and character as it is of the English past, from which Americans should not believe they are so cut off—nor should they want to be. Because of all of this, CYKAC exemplifies why Twain stands as a quintessential American writer, incorporating so many aspects of American culture and its origins into a humorous plot as he does.

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