The Sword in the Stone Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the central lesson about knowledge that is presented through the device of Merlyn aging in reverse?

    Merlyn’s aging in reverse—being born in modern times but getting older and closer to death as he goes back in time—affords him the perfect role of being Wart’s tutor. With his knowledge of those events which remain a future mystery to everybody else but is past history for Merlyn, he has the capacity to be a far more useful guide in facilitating the maturation and intellectual growth of the young boy. What this ability suggests is that knowledge is best gained from experience and that experience is theoretically the most democratic of all educational institutions: it is available to everyone. Such a concept is directly antagonistic to concepts of royal birth and aristocratic advantage. Through the suggestion that Merlyn’s experiences with future events is what molds Wart into the progression King he shall become, the author hands a critique to intellectual superiority being inextricably tied to matters of class which cannot be refuted.

  2. 2

    What is the connection between Wart’s observations about the “foxhunting spirit” of his land his plans for future rule?

    Wart recognizes that an elemental factor of a foxhunting party is the visceral enjoyment of its utter lack of meaning or purpose. The fox that is the object of the hunt is certainly not going to wind up feeding or clothing the hunters; the only goal of the hunt is pure, unadulterated bloodlust. Recognizing that fox hunting has become in reality and has come to be viewed by the lower classes as a sport of the aristocracy, Wart makes the connection between the pointless indolence of aristocratic life and the potential for good that could come from harnessing all that wasted energy. Furthermore, Wart comes to accept that there is something about the people of his island that have never gotten over the primitive desire to give something a good whack. From these observations, Wart realizes that becoming a great king will require manipulating that desire to whack things by transforming the mindless enjoyment of violence into a purposeful quest for improvement of the nation that may often require violent means to ensure such beneficence comes to pass.

  3. 3

    What is the definitive meaning of portraying the future King of Camelot as the unlikeliest candidate for the position when he was a boy?

    Kings are typically born into their job. Even if they possess no intellectual capacity or reveal themselves to be mentally or emotionally unprepared for the duties, they can still become the supreme ruler over a population where nearly anyone else might be a better choice. Wart’s boyhood as a squire—little better than a servant to his master—with a steed more like a donkey than a horse and an orphan to boot makes him almost as unlikely to assume the throne as that horse. That Wart does become not just King, but a legendary ruler essentially makes The Sword in the Stone a treatise on how aristocratic monarchy in general and the rue of primogeniture specifically can honest be regarded as about the single worst process for choosing and leading a population that could ever possibly be purposely devised. With each turn of the page and through each successive series of events, the novel deconstructs every single possible argument that can be forwarded in support of a monarchial system of governance.

  4. 4

    Is Wart likely to become a King who believes in the adage “Might Makes Right” or will he reject militaristic philosophy?

    Although his small physical stature and even lower social stature may combined with Wart’s obvious empathy toward others and seemingly innate revolutionary outlook toward established conventions, it becomes very clear that as King he will not be quick to jettison the idea that strength can be used to impose authority and domination. Where Wart will significantly differ from tradition customs regarding the principle of military supremacy equating with political superiority is his dogged insistence that might only makes right when injustices are redressed, the oppressed are liberated and what is morally wrong is made right.

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