A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court By Mark Twain Summary and Analysis Chapters 31-34

Summary

After this confession has been made and The Boss accepts it completely, the two men walk toward the hamlet, talking. In the village, The Boss makes the acquaintance of a number of people and learns what he can about the matter of wages here. One of the things that he discovers is that the new coins which he introduced are being used widely.

As they talk to various people, The Boss invites a number of them to come to Marco's (the charcoal burner) on Sunday for dinner. Lest Marco become too upset, he insists that he will pay for the whole thing, and he makes a lavish provision for the dinner. He also has Marco buy new clothing for himself and his wife, saying that it is a gift from Jones (the king), who is too shy to say anything himself.

Sunday is a beautiful day, and the guests arrive at the Marco's about noon. They gather under a huge tree outside and spend a good deal of time talking and becoming better acquainted. Dowley, the blacksmith, has been doing well, and he is in an expansive mood, telling about how he has worked his way up in the world and how he can now afford to give his family such luxuries as fresh meat on the table twice a month and salt meat eight times more.

About this time, as The Boss had planned, the Marcos bring out a number of chairs, some other furniture, and a great variety of provisions. In addition, the storekeeper's son arrives with the bill, which The Boss treats casually, even though it seems like a horrible sum to all those present. He pays it easily, and the blacksmith is crushed by this show of wealth.

The Boss now thinks that he has these men at a psychological advantage, so he begins a discussion about wages and buying power. He tries to get them to see that wages are important only in relationship to what can be bought with those wages, that a man with high wages and a man with low wages are equally well off if they can both buy the same amount of goods with what they earn. He fails totally.

Then, partly out of frustration at his failure to make these people see his point, he turns to the idea of a freeman being able to work where he wishes, for the wages he chooses. In his efforts to make a point against Dowley, the blacksmith, his comments suggest that he could now turn Dowley in for violating the law; very suddenly, all the people at the gathering are very quiet and suspicious. Thus, he tries to win back their trust and to show them that they have nothing to fear from him. At that moment, however, the king rejoins them after his nap and begins talking about agriculture. He quickly convinces the men that he is crazy, and they charge them. The Boss and the king have the better of the fight, but The Boss soon realizes that their hosts have left, undoubtedly to fetch help.

As they are chased, they throw the pursuers off their trail, and they use a stream to cover their tracks and then climb a tree, using a bough that was hanging over the water. They are, however, found when one of their pursuers climbs the tree by mistake. Yet they still manage to hold out until they are smoked out of their tree. When they land on the ground, they are immediately set upon, and a fight ensues.

They are "apparently rescued" when a gentleman and his retinue come upon the scene. They are given horses, fed, and housed at an inn, and told to ride ahead to the next town, where they will be safe. When they arrive, they come across a troop of slaves which The Boss had first seen on his way to the Valley of Holiness. They soon become a part of this band of slaves, however, for Lord Grip, their apparent rescuer, has them bound and sold. Although the king rages, it makes no difference.

Analysis

Chapters 31 and 32 are interludes which have nothing or very little to do with the plot. That is, the supposed purpose of this section is to expose the king to the customs of his subjects, but these chapters neither move the plot forward, nor do they serve to inform the king about his subjects.

The most amusing thing about the chapters is the manner in which The Boss wants to play the bountiful host and impress these rather lowly people. No matter how much power, he has, The Boss still wants to be theatrical and attract attention to himself. Of course, it is also human nature to want to put a braggart in his place, as The Boss does with Dowley, who brags about having meat twice a month and having all sorts of luxuries just before the Marcos bring out the plentiful bounty that The Boss has provided.

In Chapter 33, which again does not move the plot forward and thus is another digression, we see The Boss attempting to explain the economic theory that wages are important only in so far as what they will buy. He is a complete failure at this, and resenting the fact that the peasants don't see his point, he childishly begins to get revenge on them.

In order to show them how illogical they are, he creates another analogy about the absurdity of the pillory, and at the end of this analogy, he has placed all of the peasants in a position of being placed in the pillory. Rather than making a logical point, The Boss has only turned the peasants against him, and thus, at the first opportunity, they will use their fear to betray him.

In Chapter 34, this opportunity soon presents itself. When King Arthur makes his absurd remarks concerning agriculture, the superstitious men are going to use this opportunity to seize the "mad man" and "the one [who] would betray us." All these events are leading up to the enslavement of The Boss and the king. The comedy of the situation is that The Boss brings a higher price than the king does at the slave market, and both men are annoyed that they are sold for so little, for they both believe that they should have brought a far higher price. Since King Arthur cannot prove himself to be a freeman, and he and The Boss are sold into slavery, they find themselves upon the slave block; thus, Twain hopes that everyone will realize the "hellish" horror of slavery. The kings enslavement will, however, cause him later to abolish the entire concept of slavery.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

By what name is Hank Morgan referred to throughout the novel?




Quiz