Situational Irony

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Mark Twain

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court makes teaching easy.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: Situational Irony 1 key example

Chapter 8: The Boss
Explanation and Analysis—The Only Great Man:

In Chapter 8, Hank uses a hyperbole in reference to his status as a 19th century man in medieval times: 

Here I was [...] by all rational measurement the one and only actually great man in that whole British world.

Hank's statement is an exaggeration. Twain includes this instance of hyperbole to offer satirical commentary on Hank's character and his perception of himself. Hank's arrogance and condescension towards the people of King Arthur's time are central themes in the novel, and Hank's hyperbolic statement further highlights his self-absorption. Hank, a man who has experienced modernity and innovation, sees himself as far advanced in intellect and skill. Hank's arrogance and belief in his right to assert his dominance and perspective is significant as it drives much of the story's conflict. But there is also irony in Hank's exaggeration; despite his belief in his own greatness, Hank often finds himself in absurd or comical situations due to his misunderstanding of the customs and values of the time. 

All in all, Twain uses hyperbole to emphasize Hank's inflated self-image and to contribute to the satirical and humorous tone of the novel. It also reinforces the reader's perception of Hank as a character with an overblown sense of his own importance.