A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Hank assumes he’s still in Connecticut and that “Camelot” is the name of an asylum, since he judges his captor (later revealed to be Sir Kay) to be obviously insane. The landscape is quiet and peaceful, with little sign of human activity—until they come upon a young girl with flowers in her hair. She shows no interest in the knight, but she’s astonished by Hank.
Hank’s rational, clearheaded approach to life leads to his initial impression that he’s gotten caught up in an insane asylum. After all, time travel strains belief. But assuming Kay’s insanity also creates a clear, hierarchal division between the evidently sane Hank and others who are apparently insane. Hank’s belittling and dehumanizing of medieval people contributes to his imperialistic and colonial ambitions towards them.
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Hank and the knight approach a town full of “wretched cabin[s]” and gardens “in indifferent state[s] of cultivation. The men are brawny and unkempt and look more like animals than people; the children are mostly naked. Dogs and pigs roam freely through the crooked, filthy streets. Then, Hank hears trumpets, and a procession of knights on horseback with “flaunting banners,” “rich doublets,” and “gilded spearheads” appears. Hank and Sir Kay join in, climbing up the hill and entering the castle. 
In contrast to the advanced landscape of Hartford, Hank judges the medieval dwellings—and the people who inhabit them—as hopelessly unkempt and backward. The distinction between these people and the finely dressed nobles visibly dramatizes medieval culture’s stratified social hierarchy. Importantly, this is the first time that Hank associates medieval people with animals. This comparison emphasizes his sense of superiority, and he continues to make it throughout the book.
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