A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court can help.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Hank and Sandy are on the road again, riding through the pleasant fresh air. Hank is in a particularly good mood and allows Sandy to finish telling the story of the seven knights they met the day before. Having left the magical fountain with the 30-year-old damsel, Marhaus spent the night at the Duke of the South Marches’s home. Marhaus, accepting the duke’s challenge of combat, defeated him and his six sons. When they yielded, he commanded them to throw themselves on King Arthur’s mercy at Camelot and promise to respect the king’s knights. Hank and Sandy met the duke and his sons on their trip to the castle.
Hank attributes his good mood to allowing Sandy to tell her circuitous, medieval tale, again pointing to the way he holds himself above the culture he's found himself in. The story, which comes almost directly from Arthurian legend, carries themes of rivalry but also honor and hospitality. Victorious knights care for rather than destroy the losers. At this point, it’s an open question whether Hank understands the importance of this moral.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
After Sandy finishes her story, Hank declares he understands a little bit more about knight-errantry as a trade. A knight who can get valuable enough prisoners can make quite a bit of money off their ransoms. But as soon as a stronger man comes along, the knight is just as likely to find himself victim as victor. To his mind, it’s even worse than cornering the market on pork just before a crash, because when the knight-errantry market has a reversal, there’s no leftover pork to eat. Sandy can’t quite understand this metaphor, although Hank respects her for trying despite a total lack of business education.
Typically, Hank takes Sandy’s medieval story, filters it through his 19th-century, capitalistic sensibilities, and derives his own morals from it. First, Hank realizes that a knight-errant can make a lot of money, even though the medieval knights joust and quest for glory and honor, with ransoms being a secondary consideration. Second, and more importantly, the main lesson Hank derives from the tale is “might makes right”—whoever is strongest or most superior (as Hank believes himself to be) will prevail.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon