A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hank decides to do something valuable with his esteemed reputation. He uses the arrival of one of his soap sales-knights as an opportunity to preach the good news of personal cleanliness. He persuades the abbot to wash with the promise that it won’t drive the water away again. But then Hank comes down with a bad cold. While he convalesces, he comes up with a plan to disguise himself as a freeman and learn about the lives and circumstances of the poor.
In reestablishing the baths in the Valley of Holiness, Hank not only makes a great leap forward for his soap business, but he also further asserts his superiority over the authority of the Church. It seems that only nature itself outpowers Hank, as demonstrated by his susceptibility to the common cold. Hank’s plan to travel incognito initiates the second half of the novel.
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
One morning during his recovery, Hank talks a walk past a cave that a hermit recently vacated. Inside, he hears a bell and a voice calling “Hello, Central! Is this you, Camelot?” It seems that Hank’s telephone clerks have established an office in the Valley. The clerk in the cavern connects Hank to Clarence at Camelot, who tells Hank that the king and queen are on the way to the Valley of Holiness to see the restored waters. They will arrive within three days.
The telephone outpost offers a reminder to readers that Hank’s civilizing plans continued in the background while he’s been on his quest. It also demonstrates the advantage 19th-century technologies give Hank in his plan to rule the kingdom, since the telephone gives him knowledge of the king’s actions that no one else has.
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Clarence further reports that King Arthur, delighted with Hank’s idea to raise as standing army, has already begun recruiting officers. Disappointingly, none of them are from Hank’s “West Point” (the military academy he’s secretly established). But because two candidates are traveling with the king, Hank will have the chance to examine them himself. Clarence connects Hank with the new telephone line at West Point so that Hank can request a cadet and several professors to meet him in the Valley of Holiness as soon as possible.
Although Hank mentioned his military and naval academies in passing earlier, the discussion of a standing army and his “West Point” military academy points toward in the increasing militarism of his agenda. By involving himself in military affairs, Hank’s designs on the kingdom look more like conquest than altruistic modernization, and the threat of military violence recalls the military might that colonizers used to overpower native populations.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Back at the monastery, Hank finds a traveling magician who claims that he can see what any person anywhere in the world is doing. When Hank challenges the magician to say what he himself is doing with the fingers hidden behind his back, the magician clarifies that he sees people “of lofty birth.” Hank asks what Arthur is up to; the magician says he’s napping after a hunt. Hank disagrees and predicts that the king and queen are riding and that they will arrive in the Valley on the afternoon of the third day.
The unnamed magician demonstrates a serious threat to Hank’s authority: it only exists insofar as people believe in his power, and belief seems to depend more on putting on a good show than anything else. Thus, the audience tends to believe the flashy magician over Hank, despite his current track record of success (the eclipse, Merlin’s tower, and the fountain.)
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
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On the day that Hank thinks King Arthur is supposed to arrive, the monks show no sign of preparation for a royal visit, demonstrating their trust in the fake magician’s predictions. Not wanting the king to arrive “without any fuss and feathers,” Hank rounds up some pilgrims and hermits to greet the royal entourage. When the abbot realizes he’s been caught unawares by the king, he feels humiliated about his failure of hospitality. And Hank’s reputation rises even higher.
Although Hank despises the unearned authority of the aristocracy and royalty, he still possesses an instinctive reverence for Arthur’s authority; hence he can’t imagine the king arriving without a grand greeting. It also helps his own cause against the rival magician to ensure that people witness the vindication of his prediction.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon