A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court By Mark Twain Summary and Analysis Chapters 11-15

Summary

People arrive in Camelot regularly with tales of captured princesses. These tales are accepted without question, and knights vie with one another for the honor of going out to "right the wrongs."

One day, a young lady with a tale about how her mistress and forty-four other "young and beautiful girls, pretty much all of them princesses," are held captive by "three stupendous brothers, each with four arms and one eye." King Arthur decides that this is the quest for The Boss — whether he wants it or not.

The Boss questions the young lady, whose name is Demoiselle Alisande la Carteloise. Finally, after confusing the girl and getting few answers that satisfy him, he gives up his questioning in disgust. He is appalled by the impropriety of this young woman's riding with him on his quest, but she must since she cannot give him any directions to follow.

Before The Boss leaves, he is given much good advice about how to handle himself, and, after a good breakfast, he is helped into his armor and carried out and set on his horse, things that he could not have managed himself.

The ride through the countryside is quite pleasant — until the sun has been up for several hours. The Boss begins to sweat, and he cannot get at his handkerchief to wipe the sweat away. Finally, he gives up, has Sandy (he has quickly given Alisande a nickname) take off his helmet, and lets her pour water into his suit of armor. But he now has a new problem: he cannot get back onto his horse by himself; therefore, they must wait until someone shows up who is willing to lift him up.

As night comes on, they find shelter from a storm. But still The Boss must keep his armor on because he can't take it off himself. In addition, he cannot ask Sandy to help him because having her help would make him feel as though he were undressing in public (even though he is well clothed inside the armor). He does not spend a good night, although his companion evidently does.

In the morning, they move on — Sandy on the horse and The Boss on foot — and before long, they come upon a group of freemen who are flattered by the idea that these two would want to share their food. As they eat, The Boss tries to stir up some sentiment for changing the form of government. For the most part, he gets no positive response of any kind, but one of the men does respond tentatively. The Boss thus writes a note to Clarence, and he sends this man to Camelot for training.

The Boss pays three pennies — an extravagant price — for his breakfast; the farmers then help him on his horse, and he and Sandy continue on their way. The next day, about mid-afternoon, they come across half a dozen knights, and Sandy fears that The Boss's life is in danger. The Boss, however, looks on this as an opportunity. He lights his pipe, and by the time that the knightly company has charged toward them, he has a good cloud of smoke coming through the bars of his helmet.

This breaks the charge, and the knights come to a halt several hundred yards away. The Boss is puzzled by this, until Sandy informs him that they are waiting to yield themselves to him. Sandy also takes care of the yielding, charging them "to appear at Arthur's court within two days and yield themselves, with horses and harnesses, and be my knights henceforth, and subject to my command." This impresses The Boss; he thinks that she handles it much better than he could have; his opinion of her is rising constantly.

As they ride on, The Boss asks Sandy about these knights. She tells him, at great length, all she knows. He, however, cannot follow the tales, and he falls asleep in the middle of Sandy's ramblings. He lectures Sandy about how to tell a story; she listens to him patiently, and then she goes on to tell the story her way.

As the day ends, Sandy's story is still unfinished, but they are approaching a large and impressive castle.

Analysis

One of Twain's most frequently used narrative techniques involves the innocent narrator taking a journey and encountering various adventures. In Life on the Mississippi, Roughing It, Huck Finn, Innocents Abroad, The Prince and the Pauper, and many other works, the concept of the narrator on a journey prevails. Here, we have the nineteenth-century Yankee traveling through sixth-century England, and his adventures are in the form of a series of contrasts. They are interesting reversals of Cervantes's Don Quixote, a novel that Twain greatly admired. In Don Quixote, the traveler was a knight who protected the innocent. Here, The Boss is a commoner who is opposed to knights. But one adventure is common to both stories: The story of the bewitched pigs is found in both works.

At first, when The Boss meets Sandy (Demoiselle Alisande la Carteloise), he is impatient with her, and he is also shocked that she will accompany him on his journey; it does not seem proper or decent for the two of them to travel together — alone. Thus, beginning with their meeting and their subsequent travels, we have a contrast between civilization and primitive innocence. In their first meeting, The Boss is professional, curt, businesslike, and skeptical. He wants written proof of her identity, a map, or directions to the so-called bewitched palace. He even calls her "innocent and idiotic" when she cannot understand why he would want all of the troublesome information that he is asking for, and she is incapable of understanding why he would even doubt her word. Therefore, until they are later married, The Boss continues to be patronizing and prudish; in contrast, Sandy is patient and loving.

In Chapter 12, when the two of them set out on their adventures, the contrast between the city and the lovely countryside is emphasized, especially in the opening paragraph where they "left the world behind and entered into the solemn great deeps and rich gloom of the forest . . ." The quietness and peacefulness is reminiscent of Huck and Jim's trip down the Mississippi when no one is bothering them.

The irony is that in this lovely, peaceful solitude which The Boss so enjoys, he plans to start building huge, smoky factories filled with laboring people who must drudge through life. This is correlated by the fact that The Boss feels trapped in his suit of armor, and yet he would take these free and innocent people and trap them in the huge nineteenth-century factories — a trap much worse than the armor which he is now wearing.

The Boss's meeting with some "freemen" in Chapter 13 prompts some of his views on the Catholic Church and the ruling aristocracy. Here in Camelot, the majority of the people are ruled by only a half dozen people, and these people don't even seem to care because the Church has brainwashed them into believing that they are inferior and that they must be content with their place in life, a place assigned to them, according to the Church, by God Himself. Thus, they remain in servitude because of the alignment of the Church with the aristocracy.

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