A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Novel Summary: Chapter I-VII

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Chapter I-VII

 

Summary
From this point, through to Chapter XLIII, Hank Morgan is the first-person narrator. It is imperative to point out that the readers do not learn Hank's full name until Chapter XXXIX; for purposes of clarity he is referred to as Hank throughout this summary. The first Chapter sets the scene of Hank's arrival in the 6th Century as a young girl looks at him in 'stupefied fascination' and a description of the area, such as the unpaved streets, is given. Hank's bemusement continues in Chapter II, but is enlightened a little by a page (who Hank refers to as Clarence through the rest of the novel). This page informs him that he has been captured by Sir Kay and it is the 19th June, 528, and he is in King Arthur's Court. The reader learns that Hank knows 'by luck' that there is an eclipse of the sun on the 21st June in 528 (at three minutes after noon), so he will know in two days if Clarence is telling him the truth. There are 20 other prisoners present and Hank regards these as submissive.

Chapter III consists of Hank observing the talk at the Round Table and how the men are childlike in their boasts and desires to fight strangers. The ironic undermining of Merlin's fabled reputation begins when Merlin begins to speak of Excalibur and the lady of the lake and everyone falls asleep with boredom.

In Chapter IV, Sir Kay tells a tale of how he captured Hank and describes killing Hank's 13 knights and condemns him to death on noon on the 21st June. Because there are fears that Hank's 'enchanted clothes' will protect him, Merlin suggests he should be stripped naked. He is then stripped and placed in the dungeon.

Chapter V, which is entitled 'An Inspiration', consists of Clarence telling Hank he is to be burned at the stake tomorrow, and Hank devises a plan to escape this fate. He tells Clarence to inform King Arthur that he is a magician and he is arranging a 'little calamity' if any harm comes to him. He is asked to name the calamity, on the prompting of Merlin, and decides to refer to the eclipse (the disappearance of the sun).

In the following chapter, Chapter VI, Hank is told that the order has been changed, and that his punishment has been brought forward by a day. Clarence is comically 'beaming with triumph and gladness' as he has persuaded the Court to bring the date forward. Whilst Hank is tied to the stake, the eclipse begins and it transpires that Clarence had initially told him the wrong date. The king frees Hank once Hank has bargained with him to be his 'perpetual minister and executive' and is to be given 1% of increases in revenue he may create for the state.

In Chapter VII, Hank relates how he has now become the 'second personage' in the kingdom after he is freed. However, he feels as though he has become Robinson Crusoe in his isolation from the 19th century. Merlin is becoming increasingly envious of this new rival, especially with the interest taken in him. After spreading gossip that Hank is 'a humbug', Hank has Merlin thrown in prison. To maintain his credentials with the public, Hank tells them he will blow up Merlin's tower in two weeks. He gives Merlin a chance to counteract his magic (that is, his 'blasting powder') in order to prove Merlin is ineffective. The tower is then blown up successfully.

Analysis
These preliminary chapters introduce the predicament of the narrator, Hank, as he survives his introduction to time-travel and they also alert the reader to the general tone of this novel.

The readers should note that this main novel is dominated by Hank's perceptions of events and it is his view of the world of Camelot that we receive. His jaded opinions are clearly biased in favour of the world from where he has travelled.Irony is particularly evident, as is the consistent perception of the narrator that the populace of 6th century England were childlike and gullible.

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