A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

In dirty, crowded London, none of the well-dressed noble people recognize Arthur and Hank. Hank is relieved, however, to see that Clarence is still carrying on his work, as evidenced by a newspaper boy and a telephone or telegraph line hooked up to a building in town. Hank’s escape plan is to pick his and Arthur’s locks, beat the slave driver to the point that he’s unrecognizable, shackle him as one of the slaves, and triumphantly lead the whole procession to Camelot. For a while, though, he has trouble procuring the necessary tool for lockpicking.
The trip to London allows Hank to narrate the dramatic contrast between the different strata of society. No one recognizes him or Arthur without the symbols of their status, such as the grand clothing their friends wear. However, Hank’s ambitions to become the Boss of the whole country aren’t yet lost; even in his absence, his underlings have continued to install the machinery of transformation.
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One gentleman is particularly interested in buying Hank but not quite willing to pay the slave driver’s asking price of $22. But he keeps coming back to haggle, and on one of his visits, while he inspects Hank at close range, Hank steals a pin from his coat. Hank will need to make his escape quickly: the slave driver offers to give the gentleman Hank if he will take the unsellable Arthur in the bargain, all for $22. The slave driver gives the gentleman 24 hours to think it over.
There is no explanation for Hank’s extravagant price, but it humorously confirms his elevated estimation of his own importance. The fact that Hank depends on the slave driver and potential buyers to determine his fate reminds readers that, despite his egotism, he is still a human and at the mercy of circumstance.
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Hank impatiently waits for the rest of the slaves to settle into a deep sleep, then he picks the locks on his chains. He’s about to free Arthur when the slave driver returns, stands absently in the doorway for a moment, then leaves. Hank rushes after him. The night is dark, but he quickly tackles a figure he thinks is the slave driver. As they tussle, the noise draws the attention of onlookers—and their lanterns. Soon, a watchman strikes Hank across the back with a halberd as he takes the two fighters into custody. As Hank worries about what will happen when the slave driver realizes who attacked him, he catches sight of his opponent and realizes it’s not the slave driver after all. 
In the first half of the book, Hank’s power increases as he impresses the gullible medieval populace with his power. But his power depends in part on his visible position in the kingdom and his identity as a sorcerer. Bereft of the marks of rank, it turns out that he is just as subject to random chance and bad luck as any other man. While on the one hand, this might point toward a democratic understanding that all people are created equal, it also emphasizes the ephemeral quality of power.
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