A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

by

Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Having broken “the back of knight-errantry,” Hank unveils all the schools, mines, factories, newspapers, printing presses, telegraphs, telephones, and steam- and electric-powered technology he’s been developing in secret. He publishes an open challenge to any knight, but after three years, the chivalric class has “shut up” instead of “put[ting] up.” Within three years, the kingdom is establishing rail service, and Hank finds useful employment for the nobility there. He keeps the knights busy as “missionaries,” since they’re already good at wandering about. They’re tasked with getting people to try innovations and allowed to “remove” those who refuse.
Hank shows his desire for power and dominance when he crows about not just overcoming chivalry but also utterly eviscerating it. No one wants to challenge him for power. Having reclaimed his role as the most powerful man in the kingdom, like a colonial power, he rushes to introduce all the technological and social innovations he feels medieval society lacks. His re-employment of the knights as civilization “missionaries” echoes the colonial use of religious missionaries as a tool of cultural change. Notably, in terms of Hank’s character, his narrative tends to gloss over the periods of creation, telling them in brief flashbacks like this one. In this way, the book emphasizes Hank’s destructive capabilities—which it often describes in detail—over his constructive ones.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Hank has two long-term projects remaining: overthrowing the Roman Catholic Church and replacing it with Protestant denominations and getting Arthur to issue a decree dissolving the monarchy upon his death and establishing an immediate democracy. Everyone will have a vote—at least, every man and every mature woman deemed as intelligent as her sons. Hank is excited for this, the first “complete governmental revolution without bloodshed,” and even fancies that he would make a good first president.
But while Hank easily remakes external society, dislodging the monarchy and the Church from their historical seats of power proves to be much harder. He looks forward to an impressive, peaceful revolution, but it has yet to happen. Thinking about it also fires Hank’s hunger for power, and he fantasizes about being president—the recognized leader of society, not just the de facto, behind-the-scenes one he’s been up to this point.
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Superiority, Power, and Authority Theme Icon
Clarence is eager for the revolution, too, although he worries that getting rid of the royal family entirely will cause the citizens too much despair. If, as Hank claims, kings are dangerous, Clarence thinks that they could be replaced with cats. Cats would be about as useful as any other royals, with the benefit of being much less expensive to maintain and much less given to imprisoning, executing, or persecuting anyone. But when he promises Hank that this system would be so successful that England would become a “factory” supplying all the world’s royalties, Hank realizes he is only joking. Hank is disappointed that his protégé could imagine an improvement on the monarchy but be “too featherheaded” to mean it seriously.
Clarence shares Hank’s vision for the future and even his industrial sensibilities, imagining England itself as a “civilization factory” in the future, exporting rulers and ideals to the rest of Europe. But he was born and trained in the sixth century, which allows him to see potential pitfalls much more clearly than Hank. While his humorous idea to replace the royal family with cats pokes fun at the very idea of hereditary monarchy, it also offers a pointed reminder that deeply ingrained ideas about social organization are much harder to change than, say, replacing horses with bicycles.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Imperialism  Theme Icon
Quotes
Just as Hank is about to scold Clarence for his jokes, Sandy rushes in. Hank and Sandy’s daughter, Hello-Central, is seriously ill with croup. Launcelot, on his way to the Round Table (which is now the stock exchange) is distressed to discover that his “pet” is sick, and he joins Hank and Sandy in nursing the child through her illness. Fortunately, she recovers, but the doctors suggest that Hank and Sandy take her to the seaside for fresh air while she recuperates. The family travels to France.
In marrying Sandy and starting a family, Hank continues to assimilate to his medieval life. But his daughter—named after the 19th-century telephone operator’s greeting—offers a continual reminder of the life he lost. Launcelot seems to be a success story for Hank, since he’s been able to transfer his aggression from physical combat to fiscal combat on the stock exchange.
Themes
New World vs. Old World  Theme Icon
Imperialism  Theme Icon
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After a month, Hank sends the company’s vessel back to England for fresh supplies and news. He’s particularly anxious to learn the state of his latest experiment: a baseball team. He is trying to redirect the martial and chivalric impulses of the upper classes into athletic competition, and the teams are entirely composed of kings. They all insist on playing in armor, but Hank convinces them to differentiate by teams. One team wears mail, while the other team wears plate armor.
When all is said and done, Hank feels the most pride and excitement for baseball. As a particularly American sport, the baseball team symbolizes the ascendance of Hank’s 19th-century, New World, American ideals over the medieval, backward European institutions of monarchy and Catholicism. But it also suggests the essential solipsism of Hank’s project: he’s recreating the world that he wants, not necessarily one that’s good for everyone’s needs.  
Themes
Imperialism  Theme Icon