A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 34 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hank tries to regain control of the situation with a diversion. The closest one is the miller-gun he gave to Marco, which is still clutched in the man’s frozen hand. Hank invented the device himself. It’s filled with two sizes of lead shot, one of which represents a mil and one of which represents a milray. A mechanical button allows the device to precisely dispense the tokens. And, since Hank is currently the only person in the world who knows how to make shot, these forms of currency are counterfeit-proof.
Without “magic” to impress his audience, Hank tries to distract them with a sort of automated change-purse he’s invented. Notably, despite his oft-stated desire to put power in the hands of the nation’s people, Hank proudly explains how he gained control of the economy by switching currency to shot—something that no one else has the means or the knowledge to produce.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Just then, Arthur returns from his nap with an ominous twinkle in his eye. Hank can’t prevent him from launching into a lecture on farming that betrays his absolute ignorance of the subject. With a cry that one will betray them and the other is mad, the freemen leap up and attack Hank and the king. Arthur throws himself into the fight with relish and displays his considerable strength and martial skill. The fight devolves into such confusion that the men eventually turn on themselves, allowing Hank and Arthur an opportunity to escape. But no sooner do they reach the shelter of the nearby forest than they hear an approaching mob. Apparently, Marco and Phyllis slipped away from the fight to get help.
Arthur picks an inopportune moment to try his freeman act, and he totally botches it. This yet again points to the power of his training. A few days with Hank can’t overwrite or change years of being the king. Luckily for Hank and Arthur, the same mob mentality that allowed these men to turn on their friends and neighbors a few nights earlier after the fire at the manor house kicks in again, and in the confusion, they escape.
Themes
Nature vs. Nurture  Theme Icon
Pursued by the villagers and their dogs, Hank and Arthur momentarily gain an advantage by crossing a stream and climbing into a nearby tree using a branch that conveniently hangs over the water. And although it initially appears that their hiding spot has confused the mob, soon enough, someone gets the bright idea to check the higher branches. For a while, Arthur and Hank can hold them off—they do have the high ground, and the villagers can only climb the tree one at a time—but then the mob lights a fire, smoking them out, and forcing Arthur and Hank down from the tree.
For much of the book, Hank has relied on his apparent superiority of wits, intelligence, and education to maintain an edge over a population he judges savage and uncivilized. But without the trappings of power—“the Boss” title, his flashy clothes, or the authority that his closeness to the king grants him—his superiority evaporates entirely.
Themes
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
As Hank and Arthur descend a gentleman named Earl Grip saves them from the mob. Grip generously invites them to join his group, since they are all traveling in the same direction. The next morning, they enter a small town, where the remnants of the slave train Hank encountered on his quest are being sold at auction. Boiling with rage over the injustice of human slavery, Hank is just about to rush the block when Earl Grip’s men handcuff Hank and Arthur so that they can sell Arthur and Hank, too, into slavery. 
Hank and Arthur both instinctively trust Earl Grip as a man of similar status to themselves in the kingdom. But, evidently forgetting their commoners’ disguises, they are horrified and offended when he double-crosses them and sells them into slavery for his own profit.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
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Hank and Arthur protest that they are freemen. But they are strangers in this village, and unless they have the papers to prove their status, their claims aren’t enough to stop the sale. They’re no better off than the Black freemen in the American South during the years of slavery. Hank is incensed that he and the king are sold, like swine, at auction, and that the slave driver bought them both at a bargain price: the king for $7 and Hank for $9 when they were easily worth much more.
For a second time, the institution of slavery offers a chance for Hank to dissect the injustices of caste while also insinuating that his nineteenth-century society isn’t perhaps so far advanced over the sixth century one as he would like to believe. In both cases, the poor and the downtrodden are subject to the whims of the wealthy and powerful. And Hank’s inability to think of himself outside of his economic value—being sold for less than he considers himself worth—implicates him in political and economic structures that underwrite slavery.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Quotes