A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Novel Summary: Chapter VIII-XIII

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Chapter VIII-XIII

 

Summary
In Chapter VIII, Hank describes how he has come to enjoy his time at Camelot. In his previous life he was only a foreman at a factory, but in this time and place he is the 'substance' and the king is the 'shadow'.

Although Hank recognizes how much power he has, he insists that the Roman Catholic Church has more than he and the king have jointly. This society is then criticized for having a monarchy and Hank points out that he believes that most of the population are slaves under the rule of King Arthur. This leads on to a criticism of inherited titles and the misplaced respect for 'pedigree'. Hank has no title and believes he is seen as a curiosity. He is then endowed with the title 'The Boss'.

Descriptions of Hank's activities ensue in Chapter IX, where he tells of his first official action, which was to set up a patent office. He also starts the production of the newspaper and an excerpt of the writing is given. After this, a misunderstanding arises between Hank and Sir Sagramor and Sagramor challenges him to battle after his return from searching for the Holy Grail. Hank describes how the knights go off to search for the Grail 'now and then' and disappear for years. His tone is clearly satirical on such matters.

Chapter X expands on Hank's industriousness as he has been busy training people and has begun to run a 'teacher-factory'. Four years have 'rolled by' since he appeared in Camelot and he describes the 'progress' of his ideas. He has, for example, 50 experts rather than none. He has also been directing secret schools, in particular a naval academy, which he describes as an equivalent to West Point. Furthermore, Hank has also initiated the use of the telegraph and telephone. At the end of this chapter, the king hints that Hank should be seeking out adventures in order to make him worthy of 'breaking lances' with Sagramor on his return.

Chapter XI begins with a woman, Alisande, or Sandy as Hank refers to her, visiting Camelot. She tells of how her mistress is a captive in a castle with 44 other young women. Three 'stupendous' brothers with four arms each are their masters. Hank's cynicism of such tales is contrasted with the credulity of the knights who clamour to save the unfortunate women. The king kindly confers this adventure on Hank who is ironic in his thoughts on the matter: 'By an effort, I contained my joy when Clarence brought me the news.' He is to travel with Sandy until she finds the castle; she is unable to say where it is at the moment.

Hank must dress in a suit of armor and the descriptions of this and the help he needs to get on the horse are extremely comical. Once on the horse he cannot get down, as he needs more than one person to help him. Chapter XII continues with the descriptions of Hank's discomfiture in his travels as the sun beats down and heats up the iron of his suit. Once they alight from the horse to have a drink, he is unable to get back on it.

The narrative becomes more serious in tone when they encounter some freemen in Chapter XIII. It is stressed that they are free in name only, as they are not allowed to leave the estates of the owners without permission. Comparisons are made between these men and the plight of the French before the French revolution. The social criticism is expanded when Hank argues that there were two Reigns of Terror: one lasted months, 'the other a thousand years'. His republicanism becomes emphasized as he tells of how he is loyal to his country 'not to its institutions or its office-holders'. He also believes a man is a traitor if he does not agitate for change. The chapter ends with Hank giving a note to the most vocal one and tells him to take it to Amyas de Poulet (Clarence). It instructs Clarence to put the freeman in the Man-factory; he is allowed to take his family with him.

Analysis
As the novel progresses, Hank's republicanism becomes increasingly evident. Chapter XIII is worth particular notice on this subject as it is here that the irony and playfulness ends as the author notably inserts a lambasting attack on despotism and serfdom. His pleasure in taking power in Camelot may be regarded as a contradiction on Hank's part, or as a central contradiction embedded in the novel. This is for the reader to decide in his or her interpretation, but one must remember that Hank is a character (therefore not a 'real' person, but he is given the failings of a human). Because of his notable failings,

The Catholic Church is also a constant point of contention and is attacked verbally by Hank in Chapter VIII. This criticism also continues intermittently through the novel.

As well as criticizing Catholicism and the monarchy, this novel also questions the romance genre. This questioning is brought about with the use of satire, and in the particular mockery of the knights and their fascination with their armor. The genre is also satirized when, for instance, the populace are described as gullible in their belief in fantastical adventures. Hank's cynicism is a useful vehicle for Twain to undermine romances such as the legend of the Holy Grail and the tales of the Knights of the Round Table.

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