A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As they ride on, Hank asks Sandy where the seven defeated knights “hang out.” Once she understands what it means, she is charmed by the turn of phrase. She repeats it a few times then launches into the knights’ history. Hank regrets getting her going, since she’s impossible to stop once she starts talking.
Thus far, readers have seen Hank befuddled by the strange, medieval language at Camelot. But now, as he solidifies his own power and position in the kingdom, he begins to teach Sandy some of his 19th-century slang. He’s not so dependent on his interpreters as he was.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
According to Sandy, Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine discovered a dozen ladies dishonoring a knight’s shield. Hank interrupts to say he believes it, since even the most well-bred medieval woman could learn a lot about manners, in his opinion, from the lowliest 19th-century telephone operator. Returning to her tale, Sandy explains that the women told Gawaine that the shield’s owner hated women. They wanted Gawaine, a man of prowess, to challenge the shield owner for them. Hank interrupts again to inform Sandy that a brainy man is more valuable than a strong one. But since Camelot is “a court of Comanches” he feels that the women are no better than “squaw[s]” who want “the biggest buck.”
Sandy tells her story with the detail and diction of a medieval romance. And because Hank finds this way of storytelling fanciful and tedious, he interrupts her frequently. Sandy learns Hank’s slang but is undeterred by his interruptions, suggesting the potential—and the limits—of his attempts to retrain her. She learns to accept some, but not all his modern ways. When Hank interrupts, he uses racist slurs and the name of a Native tribe that was assigned by a colonizing force to associate the medieval people with Native Americans, implying the inferiority of both groups. He uses the language of colonizers as he criticizes the society he plans to colonize himself.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Sandy resumes her tale, with Hank occasionally interrupting to correct her archaic phrasing. The woman-hating knight was Irish prince Marhaus. Sir Gawaine warned the women that the two knights guarding their tower wouldn’t be able to withstand him. And indeed, when Marhaus appeared, he quickly defeated their champions. Hank’s attention wanders, and he picks up the thread of the story again after Sir Uwaine has joined the battle against Marhaus.
Sandy’s story so bores Hank that he stops paying attention. He aspires to run the kingdom, but his evident disinterest in the affairs of its ruling classes points toward trouble he will have in the future. By ignoring the needs, desires, and values of the society he plans to colonize, he leaves himself unprepared for its resistance.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Hank interrupts with a complaint about Sandy’s limited vocabulary and repetitive narrative style. Without details, he says her stories are “pale and noiseless—just ghosts scuffling in a fog.” Undisturbed, Sandy picks up where she left off, with Marhaus unhorsing Sir Gawaine. Hank slips into daydreams about boyhood trips to the seashore, and he ruminates on the misfortune of strong and brave men like the knights throwing away their energies to fight each other.
Hank’s comments on Sandy’s storytelling here may represent his desire for his 19th-century way of doing things. But it’s also an opportunity for Mark Twain to get in digs at other writers; since he himself is such a colorful writer, then others must be the pale ghosts in the fog. In any case, Hank’s complete disinterest in the concerns and affairs of the sixth century allows him to daydream and judge the knights for their culturally determined choices.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Nature vs. Nurture  Theme Icon
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When Hank’s attention returns to the story, the knights have come upon three damsels (ladies) by a fountain. Hank tries to convince Sandy to give the characters accents, like an Irish brogue for Marhaus. Sandy ignores him, doggedly returning to her story. The ladies are 60, 30, and 15 years old, and the youngest reminds Hank of his telephone operator girlfriend. In Connecticut, he would pick up the telephone just to hear her greeting of “Hello, Central.” Hank loses himself in sad thoughts until a castle appears in the distance around sunset. Sandy recognizes it but doesn’t know to whom it belongs.
As this chapter draws to a close, Hank rides with Sandy, and his thoughts freely wander between her story and memories of his own time and place. Hearing the history of the knights he defeated seems to ignite his own homesickness and nostalgia; no one in Sandy’s stories has come as far or as mysteriously as Hank himself. Hank shows his attachment to modern technology in the way his memory of his girlfriend specifically involves calling her on the phone.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon