The Prince and the Pauper By Mark Twain Summary and Analysis Chapter 27

Summary

Edward is bitter about being placed in prison; the cells are overcrowded and filthy, the food is inedible, and there is continuous fighting among the prisoners. A week passes, during which time, people are sent in to confirm that Miles Hendon is indeed an imposter. Then one day an old man arrives whom Hendon recognizes as a "good old honest soul" — Blake Andrews. He is confident that this man will identify him. However, even old Andrew denies him, but stays behind when the jailer leaves; he wants to give the imposter "a piece of [his] mind."

As soon as they are alone, the old man drops to his knees and praises God that Sir Miles is still alive. If Sir Miles so desires, Andrews will go forth immediately and "proclaim the truth" throughout the land, even though he knows that he will be strangled for doing so. Hendon will not let the old man sacrifice himself, but the old servant does make himself useful because he is able to smuggle in some good food for the young king and bring Hendon an accurate account of the things that have happened during Miles's absence. First, Miles's brother Arthur died; Miles's father weakened and insisted that Hugh marry the Lady Edith. She protested as long as possible but finally the marriage took place at the old man's deathbed.

Old Andrews also brings more news: It seems as though there is a "rumor that the king is mad." But he says that it means "death to speak of it." Upon hearing this, young Edward Tudor rouses up and announces that "the king is not mad." Andrews then reports that Henry VIII will soon be buried and that the new king will soon be crowned. Sir Hugh will attend the coronation. Edward then learns that "the new king" has won the hearts of the people by saving the Duke of Norfolk from death and that now he is "bent on destroying the cruelest of the laws that harry and oppress the people." Hearing this, Edward's captivity becomes almost unbearable to him. Nothing Miles can do comforts the young boy, however.

One day, two women are brought in chains and thrown in prison; they take pity on little Edward, and he discovers that they were arrested simply because they are Baptists. One day, they are gone, and he hopes they have been freed. He could not be more wrong, for he finds them chained to posts, fagots piled about them, and in an instant they are burned alive, while their daughters plead for mercy. The world is "drowned under a volley of heart-piercing shrieks of mortal agony." The young king says: "That one little moment will never go out from my memory, but will abide there, and I shall see it all the days, and dream of it all the nights, till I die. Would God I had been blind! "

Miles feels somehow pleased that the king is growing gentler and that his "disorder" is mending; once, he would have rushed forth and demanded that the women be released. That same day Edward witnesses more acts of injustice, including meeting an old lawyer who was thrown in prison because he wrote about the injustice of English laws. "The world is made wrong," Edward realizes. "Kings should go to school to their own laws, at times, and so learn mercy."

Analysis

From the social point of view, a large part of the novel has been leading up to this central, climactic chapter. The real king of England is now in one of his own prisons and is treated like a common prisoner. Prior to this scene, Miles Hendon said many times that a king should always be subjected to his own laws. Hendon, speaking for Twain, said that if the laws are too severe for a king to be subjected to them, they are too severe for the king's subjects. If the laws are good laws, then no person, however high in power, should be exempt from good and just laws. Laws that are made only for common people should be disobeyed, for they are barbaric and should be done away with.

Young Edward is now at his lowest ebb, yet these experiences will cause him to vow to change all of the cruel, unjust laws of his land. Ironically, the surrogate king, Tom Canty, is now in the royal mansion, and he himself is already changing many of the laws that are unjust. Yet even he is unaware that the true king is suffering unjustly.

It is clear that Twain's chief concern, here, is on the gross injustices which the king, like his subjects, must suffer. For example, even though Edward learns that the "new king" has already instituted a system of reforms designed to rid the nation of injustices, still two women are brought in and jailed, merely because they are Baptists. Edward cannot believe that his kingdom can jail someone for his or her religious views. Yet such is the case, as he sees. Twain, of course, was damning any government that would restrict a man's freedom to worship, according to his conscience. These two women are compassionate, good women; they are especially kind to young Edward, and he is shocked beyond belief when he suddenly must witness their burning at the stake. Tom Canty may be on the throne of England, humanely trying to save lives, but the real king is in prison and witnessing the unjust execution of two good women for their religious views.

Among the other injustices that the young king can't fathom is the treatment meted out to an old lawyer whose crime was that he wrote a "pamphlet against the Lord Chancellor, accusing him of injustice." As a result, the old lawyer became the victim of just such injustice as he decried. As soon as the young king is rightfully restored to the throne, he vows to correct such an injustice, and others like it, suggesting that there win be much more freedom of dissent and freedom of speech. Twain's major point here is that all rulers and kings should always know how their subjects live and how the laws of the land are administered.

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About whom did a crowd chant, "Be gracious to us, O sweet king! / "Trample not upon thy beseeching worms, O noble majesty!" / "Pity thy slaves, and comfort them with a royal kick!"




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