A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Chapter 44 Summary & Analysis

Clarence finishes the tale of the Connecticut Yankee. He recounts how, soon after the end of the battle, Hank decides (over Clarence’s objections) to go out and see if there are wounded who need help. They find a still-living knight who stabs Hank the instant he comes close enough to render assistance. Clarence and the boys carry “The Boss” back into the cave and tend to his wound. While he convalesces, Hank finishes up his narrative.
As if to prove the undying moral enmity between the conqueror and the conquered, Hank isn’t just trapped by his own destruction. He is also injured while trying to render assistance to the wounded. His recovery from the wound seems to vindicate his quest to change medieval society. Hank and his ideals survive the battle, if only just barely. 
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Within a few days, Merlin arrives at the cave, disguised as a woman who was left behind when the remnants of the chivalric forces retreated. The disguise fools the force in the cave, who are by this point in a desperate trap of their own making. As the dead begin to rot, the victors fall sick. They will either succumb to the “poisonous air” or lose their invincibility by abandoning their fortified position. Hank is on the verge of going out to try and broker a truce when Clarence catches Merlin casting a spell that will put him to sleep for 1,300 years. He is delighted with himself for so slyly conquering the conquerors. In a fit of laugher. he stumbles into the fence, electrocuting himself. In death, his face is frozen in a silent laugh. 
But Hank’s victory is pyrrhic; he’s trapped by his very capability to unleash utter destruction. And while he’s stayed one step ahead of Merlin throughout the book, Hank’s self-inflicted powerlessness allows the wizard to have the book’s last laugh. It’s not clear whether Hank’s coma results from his injury or Merlin’s actions. But, since belief confers authority, the men’s belief that Merlin has put their beloved leader to sleep confirms his final power.
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Clarence reports that “The Boss” sleeps like a stone and that the remaining forces are giving him one more day to wake. If he does not, they will carry him to a safe corner of the cave. They have all agreed that if any of them escapes, they will note it in the book and then hide the manuscript with Hank, since it belongs to him.
By leaving Hank at the back of the cave, asleep but not yet dead, the novel also makes a final connection between Hank and Arthur. According to Arthurian legend, the king didn’t die by Mordred’s hand; instead, he was carried to the mythical island of Avalon to recover so that he can return one day when England needs him.
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