Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-18

Chapter 10 Beginnings of Civilization

The terms are agreeable to Hank, who projects that in about four years' time he will have his government machinery running smoothly enough that Sir Sagramore's challenge should not seriously affect his plans. In this short amount of time, Hank has already set up the embryonic stages of many industries and has been clandestinely recruiting the best young minds of the country to his service. He has started public schools and Sunday schools (of varying Protestant denominations) to educate his new nation, and has agents roaming the countryside, battling superstition, undermining old values and recruiting more people to the nineteenth century way of life. Hank has done all of this very quietly, even creating an ultra secret West Point military academy. His gravest concern is the watchful eye of the Roman Catholic Church while he sets his infrastructure in place, taking care to lay his telephone and telegraph wires by night, to hide his factories and academies. Hank has decided to set everything up and introduce change gradually, rather than unveiling his grand plan all at once. Before he knows it, the term of his delay has come to an end, and the King advises him to start off into the countryside to seek adventures and thus build his knightly reputation before fighting with Sir Sagramore.


Hank's full intent is to subvert the current order and institute the type of civilization he deems best, one that closely resembles nineteenth century America. He believes that "unlimited power is the right thing when it is in safe hands," and since it is his hands that he considers the safest, he sets to work re-programming the people by degrees. Hank sets up Protestant Sunday schools of various denominations and cites his decision in political, rather than spiritual terms. A united church, he argues always gets "into the wrong hands" and stifles liberty. In his system, having numerous sects of Christianity keeps a balance of power that allows people free exercise of their religious impulses while keeping the threat of an institutional church. For all of Hank's talk of freedom and liberty, however, one becomes slightly uneasy at his tendency to believe that he has all of the solutions and has the mandate to institute them; the talk echoes that of most modern dictators, who, with love for country and people, vie for total control of a system in order to reform it according to their vision.

Chapter 11 The Yankee In Search of Adventures

At this time, a woman comes into Camelot claiming that her mistress and forty-four other maidens are being held captive in a castle guarded by three ogres. For Hank, this woman is just part of a typical pattern of liars that come through Camelot, fueling knight errantry. The King confers her cause upon Hank, and he is required to go with her and liberate her compatriots. The woman's name is Demoiselle Alisande de la Carteloise; Hank calls her Sandy for short. He skeptically interviews Sandy for details about her case, of which she has none. According to custom, she is to ride with Hank as they seek out their adventure. Ever the Yankee, Hank is extremely uncomfortable about the idea about going into the woods with an unknown woman (he tells Clarence that he was practically engaged to Puss Flanagan before his accident) but knows he has to go.

The next day, he is outfitted with a suit of armor, which he describes in detail. During this humorous departure, he is unable to put on any of the armor himself; he is helped by "all the boys" as he refers to the Knights of the Round Table. Furthermore, because of all of his armor, he unable even to mount his horse and must be carried, like an invalid, and planted upon the saddle. Sandy mounts up behind and the pair are off towards an unknown destination, with the uncouth village boys outside of Camelot hurling sass and clods of dirt at them as a sort of farewell. Hank finds it ironic that no matter what century, the insolence of little boys stays the same.

Chapter 12 Slow Torture

After a short while, Hank begins to feel the discomfort of his armor. The sun on the metal makes him very hot, and he is unable to reach his handkerchief, which he has stuffed in his helmet. Cursing all garments without pockets, Hank endures the trickling sweat over his itching, burning body. He also realizes that each time he dismounts, he must wait for passersby to help him on his horse again. To make matters worse, Sandy turns out to be an endless conversationalist, "steady as a mill," and chattering the whole day long without cease or concern‹all to Hank's great irritation.


Twain's interplay with the elements of Malory's Morte D'Arthur make a considerable portion of the satire and humor found in the book. In fact, he doesn't have to invent most of the situations, he merely lifts them from the legend and retells them with through Hank's skeptical, modern voice. In the stories, knights did go questing based on the uncorroborated stories of strangers; they did ride with damsels in no particular direction and without maps. Twain takes the Arthurian knight and logically extends him into the practical arena‹how do they manage their armor, how do they eat and sleep?--to find his humor.

Chapter 13 Freemen!

As all knight-adventurers must, Hank has to find his food and shelter by chance. While Hank would just as soon have packed sandwiches and tied them to his saddle, he has to endure this added dimension of privation during his journey as well. After setting Sandy in a safe place to spend the night, Hank sleeps on the ground, freezing while swarms of insects find their way into his armor to shelter there.

As for food, Hank asks to share a crude breakfast with a group of freemen assembled to mend the local road. Hank talks to them about their lives‹the hardships they endure, the injustices they face on a day to day basis, what they perceive the role of government to be. One particularly bold freeman tells Hank that he believes that to rob a nation of its will is the first crime among crimes. This man Hank singles out and gives a piece of bark containing instructions to put him in a "Man Factory." The freeman is to take the message to Clarence, who will put the man in one of the Boss's training centers where he will be made into the type of citizen Hank wants for his budding civilization.


As Hank describes the group of freemen reparing the road, their situation‹not being able to leave the land, buy or sell property without ceding a large portion of the proceeds to the landlord appears akin to the description of sharecropping, which Twain, who was Missouri born-and-bred before he became a Yankee, would have been perfectly aware of. The type of unfair land practices Twain describes were not confined to the sixth century, but could be easily found in the United States into the twentieth.

Also in this chapter one finds Twain's famous formulations that there were two reigns of Terror: the one of French history and the other of the centuries of oppression under European monarchial government. With uncompromising gall, Hank declares that the terrors of the French Revolutio were but half a drop of blood compared to the "hog's head full" that had been pressed from the masses by the torture of feudalism. Twain makes it clear that his Yankee is no pacifist and accepts violence against oppression as just even though he chooses to reform England through technology and education. He terms his system a "new deal," words with which Roosevelt would later christen his famous economic reform program

There is also the interesting idea of Hank's "Man (u) Factory", a place where citizens are retrained in democratic thinking and 'modern values.' The existence of such a system proves that Hank believes that men are in fact, made; they can be shaped and reformed into the type of citizen one wants. Hank asserts again and again his belief in proper education as the cornerstone of a free society, but he is also is reducing man to a type of industrial product, just like the things Hank produced in his Connecticut Factory.

There is an another element, one more intractable, that Hank prizes as much as training, and it is a thing he calls, "manliness." For Hank, manliness is a combination of courage and human dignity that shines independently of station or wealth and is best seen in times of adversity. Despite his critical attitude towards the court, he sees this element in the faces of Arthur and his men and respects them for it.

Chapter 14 "Defend thee, Lord!"

Hank pays three pennies for his breakfast, not yet accustomed to the fact that three pennies were enough to feed dozens of people at that time (a quip on inflation) [ Hank has a new mint that is trickling currency into the kingdom to introduce a cash economy. In gratitude, the farmers give Hank a piece of flint and some steel, which he uses to light his pipe. When he takes his first puffs, the clouds of smoke coming out of his knight's helmet is enough to send everyone scattering into the woods, and Sandy even falls off the horse in a swoon. Hank realizes that the fear and awe inspired by his pipe will be a handy weapon against any giant or ogre that would come their way. The next day, as he and Sandy cross a great meadow, six knights and their squires begin to charge Hank all at once. He lights his pipe and sends them fleeing in the opposite direction. When they stop 300 yards away, Hank thinks his plan has backfired and is sure that they will return for him. He tells Sandy that they have to flee as fast as they can, but she refuses. The girl tells him that the knights are afraid and waiting to yield themselves to him. Then Sandy, without any hesitation, walks to the knights herself and with grand words and gestures, bids them to appear before Arthur's court to yield themselves as The Boss's knights in two days' time.

Chapter 15 Sandy's Tale

As Hank and Sandy ride along, she tries to tell him the identity of the six knights he just vanquished. But her tale is so long and convoluted that Hank falls asleep between chapters, drops the thread of her story and constantly interrupts to reform her grammar. "The truth is," he tells Sandy, "these archaics are a little too simple; the vocabulary is too limited, and so, the descriptions suffer in the matter of variety . . . in fact, the fights are all alike."

Hank loses himself in his thoughts about his lost love, a fifteen-year-old telephone operator ("hello girl") whom he used to call up just to hear her voice. He meanders sadly through memories of his own century and through his beliefs about nobility and equality. As the sun sets, they come upon a massive castle and try to find out whose it is.


Hank's criticism of the nobility never changes in its tone or tenor or its object; it becomes repetitive quite early. Again he cites the poor manners and lack of virtues of noblewomen, saying that the humblest telephone operator could teach them courtesy. He finds a sardonic restatement of his belief that noblemen are useless: "a jackass is useful because he is a jackass; a nobleman is not useful because he is a jackass."

Chapter 16 Morgan Le Fay

Hank spots a knight coming along the road descending from the castle. The knight is wearing an odd sandwich board with gilt lettering‹and Hank remembers that this is one of his knights. The board reads, "Persimmon's soap‹All the Prime Donne Use It," and this set-up was an idea of Hank's to ridicule knight errantry while sending "missionaries" through the country to disseminate soap and other modern goods. The knight's name is La Cote Male Taile (from the French, "ill tailored coat") and he tells Hank that the castle belongs to King Uriens and his wife, Morgan Le Fay.

Hank knows Morgan Le Fay by reputation‹she passes herself as a great sorceress, very cruel and malicious. He and Sandy pass into the castle to gain audience with its owners.

Hank is amazed to see that Morgan Le Fay is very young and beautiful, though cruel, and there is something intriguing about her. Without a thought, she stabs a young page who stumbles across her knees, and then resumes entertaining her guests. Hank notes sardonically that she is an excellent housekeeper, keeping a watchful eye on the servants to make sure that they clean every drop of blood and remove the body quickly and quietly. Hank accidentally lets drop a word about her hated half-brother, King Arthur. She flies into a rage and almost has Hank and Sandy thrown into a dungeon when Sandy indignantly exclaims that she is dealing with "THE BOSS," at which Morgan Le Fay pales with fright and entreats Hank "as one who has defeated Merlin," to show her his power by blasting somebody.

Chapter 17 A Royal Banquet

After prayers Hank and Sandy have dinner with the court in the royal banquet hall. It is a splendid affair with over a hundred courtiers and officials with just as many liveried servants busily ranging through the hall. Musicians played, wine flowed and all are feasting and telling bawdy tales and jokes throughout. As the priest readies the benediction over the drunken and glutted crowd, an old woman appears before the hall and curses Morgan Le Fay for killing her only grandson. Morgan Le Fay rises up coldly and majestically, ordering her guards to take the woman to the stake. But Sandy gives Hank a look and stands before the Queen, declaring that Hank will dissolve the castle into thin air if she proceeds with the execution. Morgan Le Fay backs down and the entire banquet hall is scattered lest they witness the threatened calamity.

The Queen soon gains her spirits again, and takes Hank along for a tour of the castle. A muffled moan comes up through the halls and Morgan Le Fay tells Hank that it is a prisoner who has endured the rack for many hours. She leads him down to see the man, and explains that he is held prisoner for killing a hart on royal hunting grounds and is being tortured to confess to the crime.

Hank asks Morgan Le Fay to clear the room so that he can speak to the prisoner alone. Since he is Arthur's minister and The Boss, she complies. Hank finds out that the man did in fact kill the hart, for it was destroying his crops, but refused to confess in order that his property would not be confiscated upon his death according to the law. He does not want his wife and child to be thrown out penniless. Hank finally understands the situation and is impressed by the display of self-sacrifice. He sends the man and his family to Clarence, so that he can place them in a "Man Factory."


Though Morgan Le Fay embodies cold wickedness, she is one of the few who draws an outright respect from Hank. He is oddly drawn to her beauty, her musical voice and can't help but admiring her exactness and calculating ability even while he shudders at her cruelty. The combination makes for dark humor as she asks Hank in her most dulcet tones to blast and kill someone for the evening's entertainment. The attraction to Morgan Le Fay's efficient execution of her way of life has strong parallels to currents running in Hank's character; she is a 'backwards' version of Hank, concerned with her task and willing to resort to violence to complete it.

Twain makes a new attack on the piety of the nobility, insisting that although "murderous" and "morally rotten," they nonetheless have a great enthusiasm for religion: going to mass, saying prayers and giving thanks for their crimes. He makes an allusion to the Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, whose famous biography also contains contrasts of sublime piety and violence. Much of the Arthurian literature (and much of history) contain such incongruities: knights hack each other to death only after taking Communion; Kings give saints praise for victories in bloody battles.

To his knight Sir La Cote Male Taile Hank says, "We have brains, and for such that have brains, there are no defeats, but only victories." The statement summarizes Hank's Yankee self-assurance, his attitude towards himself and his abilities. This confidence that "there are no defeats" tragically ironic echoes at the end of the work, when Hank's brains bring him a defeat that he cannot overcome.

Chapter 18 In the Queen's Dungeons

When the Queen finds the next morning that her prisoner was released, she is furious, but unable to do anything about the matter. Hank uses his authority to examine Morgan Le Fay's dungeons, claiming that he has been doing this sort of general "delivery" throughout the region. When he goes down into the dingy cells, he finds forty seven wasted, pathetic captives, most of whom were imprisoned for petty crimes and insults. There were even five among the crew whose names and crimes were forgotten; they had been prisoners before King Urien's court came into occupancy and Morgan Le Fay never thought to release them. Hank sets all of the prisoners free and watches as the ragged bunch emerges from the castle. He exclaims that he wishes he could photograph them, and Morgan Le Fay, feigning that she understands what photography is, rushes at the group with an ax. Hank marvels at how she would think to interpret his meaning with an ax before anything else.


The stories Twain crafts to illustrate the injustices and suffering of feudal society take on a generic pathos as he piles on horror after horror. England's dungeons are never filled with criminals, but always young brides torn away from hearth and family for petty insults, or honest men falsely accused. The nameless peasants Twain paints are hopelessly oppressed, and his narratives almost seem like muckraking about the past. In fact, Hank often implies that the prisoners and peasants he comes across have been made subhuman; he describes them as behaving with "animal curiosity" or understanding as "animal does when it knows it has been done a kindness." This type of 'oppression narrative' becomes a recurring feature in Hank's travels, escalating in pathos and severity as the book goes on. For some, this type of pounding tends to produce a sense of irreality rather than pity. ]