A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The pilgrims, notwithstanding the miraculous fountain is out of order, insist on continuing as quickly as possible to the Valley of Holiness. The band arrives shortly before sunset to find a community shrouded in a sense of doom. The abbot in charge sheds tears of relief on Hank’s arrival.
Although Hank attributes the pilgrims’ lack of rational action to their human nature rather than their medieval social training, his comments nevertheless continue to imply the inferiority of the superstitious medieval mindset.
Themes
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Because he needs to buy some time for his materials to arrive, Hank explains that it’s bad form for two rival magicians to work at the same time. He will wait for Merlin to give up before he does his own magic. The abbot, confident in the authority of the Church to command everyone in the kingdom, offers to order Merlin to stop or to “persuade” him by more subtle means to give up. But Hank points out that an annoyed Merlin might then try to sabotage the fountain in order to frustrate his rival, “The Boss.”
As with the earlier eclipse, Hank’s “magic” depends on the rational laws of nature and scientific principles, which prevent him from performing his miracles on demand. To further concentrate his authority, he must create the circumstances of his own success. And Hank must fight against the tendency of the feudal system (represented here by the Church and the abbot) to impose its own will regardless of justice or fairness.
Themes
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Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Despite this enforced wait, the monks are so relieved by Hank’s arrival that they finally eat a decent meal and begin to cheer up. When start drinking mead (alcohol), they become very jolly indeed, telling off-color stories and singing “questionable songs.” Hank throws his own joke into the mix, although he has to repeat himself many times before the crowd finally understands the joke well enough to laugh.
The fact that the monks trust Hank more than God (or Merlin) to fix their fountain suggests that their belief isn’t as true or as strong as it might be. Moreover, in their relief, the revert to crude, uncivilized medieval habits. The vanguards of the old order—the Church and the nobility—aren’t capable, in the book’s opinion, of being civilized.
Themes
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In the morning, Hank visits the well, where Merlin is busy waving his arms and muttering incantations. He’s too busy to stop Hank from checking out the situation. The miraculous “fountain” is a regular well lined with stones from which the monks draw water with a bucket. Hank suspects that it’s sprung a leak, a suspicion he confirms after having the monks lower him in the bucket. He had hoped to perform a more spectacular miracle with a dynamite torpedo, but it won’t be necessary. Hank will have to wait for that show.
Merlin’s inattention to both the fountain itself and to Hank’s presence shows how blinded he is by superstition, by extension implicating almost all the medieval people in this same blindness. This also points yet again to the power of training: reason seems to be bafflingly unavailable to the medieval psyche because their environment and culture condition them to believe in, and look for, the miraculous instead of the reasonable. But, ironically, even as he judges the medieval “savages” for their irrationality, Hank regrets not being able to play on their superstitions and fears by showing off his new bomb.
Themes
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Nature vs. Nurture  Theme Icon
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Having determined that he can restore the fountain, Hank promises the monks that he will try if or when Merlin fails. And he warns them that it is a difficult miracle. The monks aren’t surprised; their records show that it took a year to restore the well the last time it stopped. Hank plans to exploit the notion that the task is difficult, since he knows that a person can enlarge even the smallest thing with “the right kind of advertising.”
The monks’ inability to understand what’s obvious (at least to Hank) about the well’s decidedly mundane mechanics makes them appear childish and ignorant. This ignorance supports Hank’s exploitation, and his choices here contribute to the book’s exploration of the dynamics of colonialism. Instead of teaching the monks, Hank would prefer to exploit their ignorance to increase his power over them.  
Themes
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Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
On his way back to the pilgrims’ quarters, Hank runs into Sandy, who has been out “sampling the hermits.” He wants to do the same if the hermits don’t “knock off,” “shut up shop,” or “draw the game” at noon. Sandy can’t understand his 19th-century slang, but then again, he has a hard time following the flowery and long-winded apology she offers for her ignorance. Hank feels ashamed for teasing her over things she couldn’t possibly be expected to know. He apologizes and they set off together to visit the hermits. All afternoon, they drift from one to another, marveling at their various forms of spiritual exercise.
Hank initially mocks Sandy for her inability to understand his 19th-century slang. This makes him seem callous and cruel and suggests that he might not be as morally superior as he believes. In response, Sandy offers an oblique criticism of his behavior, and Hank seems able to accept it mostly because it’s indirect. Later, Clarence will be able to offer criticism obliquely as well.  Moments like this emphasize the way that Hank’s sense of superiority isolates and disadvantages him.
Themes
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Quotes
The most famous hermit lives atop a tall pillar. He bows rapidly and repetitively, and this motion is so nearly perpetual that it gives Hank an idea. Hank briefly turns aside from the chronology of his narrative, to explain how he later hooked the hermit up to a sewing machine and produced 18,000 linen shirts over five years. They sold well, due to their allegedly holy properties and a widespread advertising campaign. Hank even introduced a fashion line before the monk’s health started failing. Then, he unloaded the business for a tidy profit on some knights prior to the hermit’s death.
The hermit Hank describes here is based on the historical St Simeon Stylites, a fifth-century Syrian holy man. The exotic weirdness of his actions suggests that gap between the superstitious medieval worldview and Hank’s modern one. But his business plan casually dehumanizes the man, suggesting that 19th-century business practices see people as cogs in an economic machine rather than as people. Although Hank criticizes the Church for using religion to consolidate wealth and power, he’s willing to do that himself.
Themes
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