A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Top Ten Quotes
Under the old dim writing of the Yankee historian appeared traces of a penmanship which was older and dimmer still - Latin words and sentences: fragment from old monkish legends, evidently. (p. 8)
These are the ambiguous words of the first narrator, M.T.. They are useful in helping to add authenticity to the document that constitutes the main novel; for example, the references to Latin words and 'old monkish legends'. This reference also cleverly suggests that Hank (the Yankee historian) has simply written over older, ancient writing in order to appear to be an older document.
And plainly, too, they were a childlike and innocent lot; telling lies of the stateliest pattern with a most gentle and winning naivete, and ready and willing to listen to anybody else's lie, and believe it, too. (p. 19)
This reference is a useful example of how the main narrator (Hank) perceives the people of the 6th century. This sardonic, critical tone is maintained throughout the novel when questioning the maturity of the populace. Hank measures maturity by his values from the 19th Century, which prefer science and evidence to superstition and magic.
I saw that I was just another Robinson Crusoe cast away on an uninhabited island, with no society but some more or less tame animals, and if I wanted to make life bearable I must do as he did - invent, contrive, create, reorganize things; set brain and hand to work, and keep them busy. (p. 53)
Here, Hank delineates how he will proceed to survive in his new surroundings. The reference to Robinson Crusoe emphasizes how isolated Hank feels in this relatively 'backwards' society,
Why, dear me, any kind of royalty, howsoever modified, any kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don't believe it when somebody tells you. (p. 62)
This statement is a useful testimony of Hank's republican sympathies. This is also a strong example of how this novel is able to shift its tone from satire to this more straightforward social criticism.
We speak of nature; it is folly; there is no such thing as nature; what we call by that misleading name is merely heredity and training. (p. 150)
This reference demonstrates Hank's fervent belief in the value of training and education and is mentioned in relation to Morgan Le Fay. He disavows the apparent inevitability of divine rights and argues instead that the masses should be free to choose their leaders and have the right to an education.
Men write many fine and plausible arguments in support of monarchy, but the fact remains that where every man in a state has a vote, brutal laws are impossible. (p. 237)
This quotation is made ostensibly in relation to the injustice imposed on a young woman as the king favors the legal rights of a bishop over a commoner. This may also be read more broadly as further invective aimed against monarchist rule; it also demonstrates a preference for universal suffrage.
Wherever you find a king who can't cure the king's-evil you can be sure that the most valuable superstition that supports his throne - the subject's belief in the divine appointment of his sovereign - has passed away. (p. 254)
This quotation is drawn from Chapter XXVI, where the king gives alms and touches the sick. This section is a vehicle for challenging the notion of the divine right of kings. That is, this undermines the idea that kings have a divine right (from God) to rule.
The law of work does seem utterly unfair - but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash also. (p. 278)
Hank considers the disparity in pay between professions and manual work in this reference. It may also be argued that although Hank is quick to point out the unfairness, he also appears to regard it as inevitable.
The earl put us up and sold us at auction. This same infernal law had existed in our own South in my own time, more than thirteen hundred years later, and under it hundreds of freemen who could not prove that they were freemen had been sold into life-long slavery without the circumstances making any particular impression upon me; but the minute law and the auction block come into my personal experience, a thing which had been merely improper before became suddenly hellish. (p. 351)
At this point in the narrative, Hank and King Arthur, who have been travelling in disguise as freemen, have been sold by Lord Grip as slaves. Hank's sentiments reveal that he has learned to question events in his own lifetime, such as slavery, although this reference is more concerned with the unfair treatment of freemen rather than slaves as such. Shortly after this reference, the abolition of slavery is discussed in positive terms, however.
Ye shall all die in this place - every one - except him. He sleepeth now - and shall sleep thirteen centuries. I am Merlin! (p. 447)
This final act by Merlin shows him finally securing revenge over Hank. These words are narrated by Clarence as a postscript.