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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (original 1889; edition 2011)

by Mark Twain

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,30990483 (3.7)2 / 269
Member:nathan.phelps
Title:A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Authors:Mark Twain
Info:Simon & Brown (2011), Paperback, 334 pages
Collections:Fiction
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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (1889)

  1. 41
    The Practice Effect by David Brin (espertus)
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    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Morteana)
  3. 10
    Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper (DWWilkin)
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  4. 21
    King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: These novels have some similar plot elements.
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Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
Considering that I am a fan of Mark Twain and that I have a deep and abiding love of all things Arthurian, it's a bit surprising that it took me so long to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. The story is bookended by Mark Twain himself describing his encounter with Hank Morgan, the titular Yankee, who gives Twain a manuscript of his experience in 6th-century England--King Arthur's England. Hank is a 19th-century man just like Twain but one day finds himself in the 6th Century and promptly captured by Sir Kay. He is thrown in prison and sentenced to death, but by learning the date, he knows that a solar eclipse will occur the following day and uses this knowledge to position himself as a great wizard. Merlin is naturally miffed, and the two are rivals from that time forward.

Through his wisdom and influence upon King Arthur and the nation, he earns the title of The Boss. He cares nothing for the Temporal Prime Directive and sets about creating his own pocket of the 19th century within the 6th. He establishes a newspaper, a telephone service, gun factories, a standing army, a navy, sandwich board advertising, and many more innovations. All throughout The Boss displays a mixture of disdain and amusement toward the people and customs around him. I had hoped that he might be brought down a peg or two for his hubris, but apparently this wasn't that sort of story. His commentary is often funny though, making this a bit like RiffTrax: King Arthur edition. As some of the jokes are about the way that the people of Arthur's England talk (based on the way that medieval writers wrote), it's probably funnier if you're already familiar with the medieval style of narration in these sort of tales of chivalry. Twain even lifts whole sections of description directly from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur.

The Boss is a hard character to like, in that he enjoys humiliating people and is rarely forgiving of how the people of the 6th century think and believe, given their education, or lack thereof. That said, I still enjoyed the book. Near the end, when it came to describing the events that led to King Arthur's death (despite the fact that it took a mere two pages to do so and it generally takes several chapters in most Arthurian tales), I couldn't help but be caught up in the emotion of it all. That part of Arthur's story always gets to me though, perhaps because my first introduction to Arthurian literature was part of a packet handed out by my Brit Lit teacher in high school: the final chapter of T.H. White's The Once and Future King, in which the old King thinks back on his life, his achievements and failures, and all that has led up to this final battle, which he knows he will not survive. It breaks my heart every time. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court can be a little dense at times, but I definitely recommend it to anyone wishing to read a book that pokes fun at the oft-times serious genre of medieval romance. ( )
  Jessiqa | Jul 26, 2016 |
Mark Twain's classic time-traveling satire, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court follows Hank Morgan, a northern factory foreman, who finds himself transported back to 6th Century England and uses his 19th century knowledge to elevate himself to the role of The Boss, second only to the King. Much of the story serves to attack institutions in which an elect group concentrates power among themselves and so debases the lower classes that they cannot conceive rising up against it. The slaves Twain portrays in Arthurian England belong less to the 6th century than to 18th and 19th century America. Twain battles superstition as well, writing, "Somehow, every time the magic of fol-de-rol tried conclusions with the magic of science, the magic of fol-de-rol got left" (p. 287). Additionally, Twain's criticisms of the Catholic Church, and institutionalized religion in general, reflect his public comments on the religion and serve to foreshadow the story's grim ending.
Twain clearly loves Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur as he quotes freely from the text, even allowing characters like Sandy to relate tales of knight's exploits in lengthy passages from Malory. Therefore, reading Malory immediately before starting Yankee in King Arthur's Court helps one to better enjoy Twain's references and humor.
This edition from Reader's Digest features gorgeous illustrations by Joseph Ciardiello that capture the absurdity of Twain's story with lavish color and action. The afterword by T.E.D. Klein contextualizes Twain's writing while setting it within the Arthurian canon. The leather binding ensures that this will look wonderful on any bookshelf. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jun 27, 2016 |
This was a funny classic from Mark Twain. The idea was enjoyable and most of the storyline was enjoyable. However, it did seem to drag on during parts. I am used to Twain's writing style so that was not the problem. He just seemed to get caught in words during some parts. I really enjoyed Hank Morgan giving his perspective on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table using his modern" 19th century eye. It was also interesting to read his perspective on the Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere love triangle." ( )
  jguidry | May 31, 2016 |
The United States in the 19th century. Hartford, Connecticut. Hank Morgan receives a blow to the head and is suddenly and inexplicably transported to 6th-century England. After this time travel, Hank Morgan, still equipped with his 19th-century knowlege, starts an adventure through medieval England. Captured and brought to King Arhtur's court he is sentenced to burn at the stake. However, Hank Morgan manages to escape his fate by divining a solar eclipse, which, regarding the circumstances, is not such a big feat. Much to the chagrin of the greatest magician of England, the famous Merlin, Morgan manages to become the chief minister to King Arthur and is henceforth known and feared as 'The Boss' because of his magical capabilities. Living up to his position, Hank Morgan slowly starts to institute changes in a society that can only seem totally backward to his 19th-century eyes. His main goals throughout the novel are to diminish the power and influence of the church, to abolish the insitution of knight-errantry, to introduce the democratic republic as a new system of government, and, on a more personal level, to publicly make Merlin look like a fool whenever he can.

As much as this book can be seen as a criticism of monarchy and the strong role of the church, it can be read as a criticism of slavery in the United States. Aristocrats in 6th-century England are compared to slaveholders in America: "The repulsive feature of slavery is the thing, not its name. One needs but to hear an aristocrat speak of the classes that are below him to recognize - and in but indifferently modified measure - the very air and tone of the actual slaveholder; and behind these are the slaveholder's spirit, the slaveholder's blunted feeling. They are the result of the same cause in both cases: the possessor's old and inbred custom of regarding himself as a superior human being." (p. 190)
The original illustrations by Daniel Carter Beard underline Twain's criticism throughout the novel and contribute to its satiric tone.

Speaking of the humorous and satirical qualities of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arhtur's Court, I much enjoyed the frequent jabs Twain took at different institutions or groups of people. Those parts definitely contributed to an already great reading experience. Read what Mark Twain has to say about the German language when he compares it to 6th-century English:
"(...) I was standing in the awful presence of the Mother of the German Language. (...) If words had been water, I had been drowned, sure. She had exactly the German way: whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth."

To my mind, Twain's exploration of the possibility of speeding up historical development makes this novel even more valuable. When 19th-century Yankee Hank Morgan tries to use his advanced knowledge of history to do away with monarchy and set up a democratical society, the question arises whether 6th-century England is ready for such a radical change. In the end, Morgan himself has to act as the driving force of revolution only to see his system fail when people fall back to their 6th-century beliefs. The church certainly plays an important role here as a separation of church and state is not yet ingrained in people's minds. Therefore, the experiment of introducing a democratic system in the 6th-century is doomed to fail. Now is it just that mankind is not ready for the change yet and has to exist a couple of centuries longer to recognize the merit of a different system? Or is it the radical and abrupt way in which Hank Morgan approaches his project? In the end, even Hank himself recognizes that with him as a leader in a democratic society nothing much would change as people would regard him as the ruling monarch and 'The Boss'.

In conclusion, Mark Twain's novel is a highly enjoyable and highly recommendable read for several reasons, of which I will name the four main ones for me. First, it is a humorous depiction of 6th-century customs, especially knight-errantry. Second, it raises some very interesting questions and makes you rethink the development of different systems of government. Third, Beard's illustrations fit perfectly to Twain's narrative and as Twain said himself "[Beard ] not only illustrates the text but he illustrates my thoughts". Fourth, the narrative of the Yankee's adventure's in King Arthur's court are highly readable and reminded me somewhat of the adventures of Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote, which I loved. All in all, 4.5 stars. ( )
2 vote OscarWilde87 | May 13, 2016 |
I like science ficton, particularly time travel stories, and I like classic literature. So this book should have been a perfect fit for me. Sadly, it was not. I know a lot of people like it, but I just honestly couldn't hack my way through all of it and I gave it the old college try twice!

( )
  Garrison0550 | May 10, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (282 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mark Twainprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banbery, FrederickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beard, Daniel CarterIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dietz, NormanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ferrari, AntongionataIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzpatrick, Lucy MabryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hearne, JackIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hyman, Trina SchartIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langton, StuartNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lopez, AbelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pérez Rilo, RicardoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
Camelot—Camelot,” said I to myself. “I don’t seem to remember hearing of it before. Name of the asylum, likely.”
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There never was such a country for wandering liars; and they were of both sexes.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
ISBN 0812504364 is a Tor edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
Adapted by Victor Barnes
ISBN 0486415910 is a Dover Publications edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553211439, Mass Market Paperback)

This novel tells the story of Hank Morgan, the quintessential self-reliant New Englander who brings to King Arthur’s Age of Chivalry the “great and beneficent” miracles of nineteenth-century engineering and American ingenuity. Through the collision of past and present, Twain exposes the insubstantiality of both utopias, destroying the myth of the romantic ideal as well as his own era’s faith in scientific and social progress.

A central document in American intellectual history, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is at once a hilarious comedy of anachronisms and incongruities, a romantic fantasy, a utopian vision, and a savage, anarchic social satire that only one of America’s greatest writers could pen.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:18 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

When chance brings Edward Tudor and Tom Canty together, they decide for fun to switch clothes and places. Exchanging their roles as heir to the throne of England and as a pauper's son, they learn how the other half really lives.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 24 descriptions

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