Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

The Unities in "Connecticut Yankee"

There is no doubt that Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is marred by structural absurdities, flawed changes in tone, and a stuttering, episodic arrangement. The novel often attempts to do far too many things at once, juggling commentaries on chivalry, aristocracy, religion, technology, and more. That the book survives these shortcomings and goes on to transcend many of Twain's other texts speaks to the author's remarkable talent. The book succeeds largely due to a trio of elements that work below the surface narrative; these three devices are arguably the most valued tools in Twain's repertoire.

The first of these, irony, is obvious from even a light reading. Never mind that Yankee was originally intended to be a romantic tale. Since readers are likely to sympathize with Hank Morgan, they instinctively reflect his presupposition that the 19th (or 21st) century is superior to the simple-minded, archaic designs of the 6th century, most likely because the differences between the two ages are immediate and tangible. Whereas the modern world has brought us a degree of gender and racial equality, charity, leisure, and democracy, the world that King Arthur inhabited was sordid, muddy, and a...

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