A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Similes 8 key examples

Definition of Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like" or "as," but can also... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often use the connecting words "like... read full definition
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two unlike things. To make the comparison, similes most often... read full definition
Chapter 1: Camelot
Explanation and Analysis—Lonesome as Sunday:

In Chapter 1, Hank uses a simile as well as imagery to describe the calming beauty of the English countryside: 

It was a soft, reposeful summer landscape, as lovely as a dream, and as lonesome as Sunday. The air was full of the smell of flowers, and the buzzing of insects, and the twittering of birds, and there were no people, no wagons, there was no stir of life, nothing going on. 

Hank first compares the loveliness of the landscape to a dream and then to a lonely Sunday. Sunday is typically known as a day off work, a time for rest and, historically, religious observance. By likening the landscape to the atmosphere of a Sunday, the simile emphasizes the overall serenity of the scene.  The words "soft" and "reposeful" also evoke a feeling of calm and relaxation. 

Note how Twain uses imagery to engage the reader's senses. Hank describes the various sensory experiences of the landscape. The air is filled with the pleasant aroma of flowers, and the sounds of buzzing insects and twittering birds contribute to the sensory richness of the scene. This allows readers to imagine themselves within the landscape, experiencing its beauty firsthand. All in all, Twain's use of figurative language paints a clear image in the reader's mind. 

Chapter 3: Knights of the Table Round
Explanation and Analysis—Sonorous Snores:

In Chapter 3, Hank uses a simile and metaphor to describe the sight and sound of a group of knights sleeping: 

The droning voice droned on; a soft snoring arose on all sides and supported it like a deep and subdued accompaniment of wind instruments. Some heads were bowed upon folded arms, some lay back with open mouths that issued unconscious music.

Hank uses a simile and compares the soft snoring of the knights to the sound produced by wind instruments. This comparison adds a layer of musicality to the scene, albeit one of monotony and sleepiness. It also reinforces the idea that the knights' snoring is a constant and unchanging background presence, much like a musical score. 

Hank also uses a metaphor and describes the snoring as "unconscious music," as if the men were instruments themselves. This metaphor transforms the ordinary act of snoring into something artistic and musical. It also highlights the unintentional and involuntary nature of the sound, as the knights are unaware of their own "performance."

Together, this simile and metaphor enhance the reader's understanding of the monotonous and tiresome nature of the knights's snoring. Twain uses figurative language to convey the idea that the snoring has turned the room into an orchestra, a memorable image that sparks the reader's imagination. 

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Chapter 6: The Eclipse
Explanation and Analysis—The Deluge:

In Chapter 6, Hank uses a simile to describe the reaction of onlookers after he fools them into believing he has ended the eclipse: 

But when the silver rim of the sun pushed itself out a moment or two later, the assemblage broke loose with a vast shout and came pouring down like a deluge to smother me with blessings and gratitude. 

Hank compares the sight of the crowd moving to an incoming flood. This image underscores the intensity of the crowd's reaction; the people are so moved and overjoyed by the reappearance of the sun that they rush forward enthusiastically. Fast, overwhelming, and forceful, they crash into Hank like a wave. 

Hank's comparison of the crowd to a deluge suggests that the crowd's outpouring of blessings and gratitude is not just a trickle but a torrential expression of their appreciation, conveying the idea that Hank is inundated with their thanks.

Twain uses figurative language here to emphasize the passionate and exuberant reaction of the crowd as they rush toward Hank. In doing so, he evokes the sense of relief and celebration that accompanies the end of the eclipse for the reader in a memorable way, allowing them to more easily relate to the characters in the scene. 

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Chapter 11: The Yankee in Search of Adventure
Explanation and Analysis—A Leaf out of the Gospel:

In Chapter 11, Hank uses a simile to describe Sandy, a young lady who speaks with great enthusiasm but, according to Hank, little sense:  

Why, she was a perfect ass; and yet the king and his knights had listened to her as if she had been a leaf out of the gospel.

Hank first describes Sandy as a donkey, a comparison that has a negative connotation. To call someone an ass or donkey is to say that they lack intelligence or are foolish or irrational. In doing so, Hank thus insults Sandy's intelligence. However, the reaction of the king and knights is the opposite of Hank's. Hank contrasts Sandy's seemingly obvious lack of intelligence with the surprising fact that the king and knights pay close attention to her words. The simile "as if she had been a leaf out of the gospel" further emphasizes the absurdity of the situation. Hank describes the knight and kings listening as if they are listening to a page from the Bible, "the gospel" referring to the teachings of Jesus Christ. This suggests that Sandy's words are treated with unwarranted reverence, as if they hold great importance and wisdom, even though her ideas or statements are, in Hank's view, foolish and nonsensical. 

Twain's use of simile here underscores the difference between Hank and the others' reactions, as well as how Hank looks down upon the society and company he finds himself in. All in all, Twain uses this figurative language to add a humorous, satirical element to the narrative. 

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Chapter 12: Slow Torture
Explanation and Analysis—Quiet like Spirits:

In Chapter 12, as Hank and Sandy travel through the beautiful countryside, Hank makes an unexpected comparison to describe their journey through the country's green valleys: 

We crossed broad natural lawns sparkling with dew, and we moved like spirits, the cushioned turf giving out no sound of footfall.

This simile compares Hank and Sandy's movement to that of spirits. Spirits are often associated with a lack of physical presence and an ethereal quality, meaning they can move without making any physical noise or impact. By likening Hank and Sandy's movements to that of spirits, Twain suggests that they are moving silently and gracefully, almost as if they are not of this physical world.

The simile is further reinforced by the description of the turf as "cushioned," which emphasizes how it makes no sound when walked upon. The term "cushioned" suggests a soft and silent surface, which enhances the idea that their movement is exceptionally quiet and gentle. The fact that the turf makes "no sound of footfall" underscores the ethereal quality of their movement, as if they are gliding over the ground.

Overall, this simile serves to create an image of graceful and silent movement, enhancing the sense of otherworldliness or supernatural quality in Hank and Sandy's actions. Twain's use of figurative language also importantly contributes to the atmosphere of the scene, evoking a sense of tranquility and magic as the two move across the valley. 

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Explanation and Analysis—Rattling Armor :

In Chapter 12, Hank uses auditory imagery and a simile to describe his discomfort wearing armor: 

I rattled like a crate of dishes, and that annoyed me; and moreover I couldn’t seem to stand that shield slatting and banging, now about my breast, now around my back; and if I dropped into a walk my joints creaked and screeched in that wearisome way that a wheelbarrow does.

The imagery in this passage is rich and sensory, appealing to the reader's senses to convey a clear image. Phrases like "rattled like a crate of dishes" evoke the sound of clattering and noise, emphasizing the cacophony of Hank's armor as it moves. Although readers of the novel aren't likely to know what a suit of armor sounds like, Twain offers the familiar images of a wheelbarrow and dishes to the reader so they can more easily imagine his armor's loud clanging. Twain's use of simile here also serves to emphasize the awkwardness and lack of grace of Hank's movements.

All in all, Twain's use of imagery and simile conveys the physical and emotional discomfort Hank experiences while wearing the armor. The clattering and noise of the armor, along with the comparison to a creaking wheelbarrow, highlight the impracticality of medieval armor and the challenges faced by someone unaccustomed to wearing it. This passage serves as a humorous commentary on the inconveniences and awkwardness of trying to adapt to the customs and attire of a different time and place.

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Chapter 14: “Defend Thee, Lord!”
Explanation and Analysis—Like a Battery's Volley:

In Chapter 14, Hank uses a simile to describe the knights who challenge him to a duel: 

No, they came in a body, they came with a whirr and a rush, they came like a volley from a battery; came with heads low down, plumes streaming out behind, lances advanced at a level.

The unusual comparison to a "volley from a battery" draws upon military imagery. In a military context, a "volley from a battery" refers to a coordinated and rapid firing of artillery or firearms. It implies a forceful, synchronized, and impactful assault. By likening the group's approach to such a military action, Twain conveys a sense of precision, speed, and intensity.

The simile also highlights the collective and unified nature of the group's movement. They are not approaching haphazardly or individually but as a well-organized unit, with "heads low down, plumes streaming out behind, lances advanced at a level." These details further emphasize the image of a charging force with a clear sense of purpose and determination.

Overall, Twain's use of simile here effectively captures the energy and coordinated movement of the group, creating a vivid mental picture for the reader. It adds a sense of urgency and excitement to the scene, making it more engaging and dynamic, as the knights appear to be a formidable threat to Hank.

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Chapter 18: In the Queen’s Dungeons
Explanation and Analysis—Fossilized Toads:

In Chapter 18, Hank compares a couple who are arrested, separated, and imprisoned to a pair of fossilized toads:

Here they were, kerneled like toads in the same rock; they had passed nine pitch dark years within fifty feet of each other, yet neither knew whether the other was alive or not.

The simile compares the characters to toads, which are typically associated with dark, damp, and confined spaces. By likening the characters to toads, Twain conveys the idea that they are living in a cramped and uncomfortable environment, emphasizing the lack of space and freedom they have experienced. Toads are also creatures that often live in hidden or concealed places, which adds to the sense of isolation and obscurity the simile evokes.

The phrase "in the same rock" suggests that these individuals are physically close to each other, as if they are both trapped within the same enclosure or confinement. However, the simile serves to highlight the irony that, despite their proximity, they are completely disconnected from each other emotionally and socially.

Overall, this simile paints a vivid picture of their living conditions and the emotional estrangement they have experienced. It underscores the idea that physical closeness doesn't guarantee meaningful human connection. All in all, Twain's evocative language emphasizes the tragedy of the lovers' separation, as well as their "lowly" state, having been imprisoned. 

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