In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, factories represent Hank Morgan’s desire to recreate a 19th-century American civilization in medieval England. That factories are places where raw materials become valuable commodities suggests not only the transformation Hank wants to see but also hints at his obsession with money—many of Hank’s civilizing plans involve economics, and they conveniently make him a rich man. Hank creates two kinds of factories: literal and metaphorical ones. His literal factories make technologically advanced goods like soap, clothing, gunpowder, lead pipes, and telephones. Meanwhile, Hank’s schools, or “man factories,” re-educate the members of society Hank deems capable of becoming “civilized.” He intends the literal factories to advance the medieval Britons by making their lives more comfortable and by encouraging them to adopt 19th-century habits of bathing and communication. Meanwhile, Hank’s metaphorical “man factories” are supposed to indoctrinate their students with 19th-century American values like democracy, Protestant Christianity, and social mobility.
But Hank’s use of factories to reform Arthurian England imply the limits of Hank’s imagination. Hank is so committed to producing his new citizens, for instance, that he is willing to use violence to compel medieval Britons to accept his improvements. Moreover, factory-made goods are uniform, if not identical, suggesting that Hank wants to create just one type of person, despite his alleged enthusiasm for democratic self-determination. In this way, although he criticizes medieval nobles and knights for clinging to the antiquated values their society instilled in them—for example, the view that nobles are better than commoners or that the authority of the Church is absolute—he wants medieval Britons to cling just as strongly to 19th-century values.
Hank’s factories ultimately fail in their mission to modernize medieval England. When a civil war and Church interdict throw England into chaos, almost all of Hank’s newly educated citizens revert to their old, superstitious, religious, and monarchist beliefs. Only a small group of teenage boys, who were raised entirely under Hank’s civilizing schemes, sides with Hank and with modernization. And even the goods produced in Hank’s literal factories fail to improve his society—the Church forbids the use of electricity and other 19th-century conveniences, and when Hank prepares to make his final stand against the feudal world order, he blows the factories up. This prevents the factories from falling into enemy hands, but it also suggests that his factories were more aimed at destruction of the old order than creation of the new world order. Like the electric fences, batteries, and dynamite torpedoes (land mines) that Hank uses in his final stand against medieval England, Hank’s factories are ultimately destructive and violent; it is fitting then, that they become not only the end of Camelot but Hank’s personal defeat as well.
Factories Quotes in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
The newest prisoner’s crime was a mere remark which he had made. He said he believed that men were about all alike, and one man as good as another, barring clothes. He said he believed that if you were to strip the nation naked and send a stranger through the crowd, he couldn’t tell the king from a quack doctor, nor a duke from a hotel clerk. Apparently here was a man whose brains had not been reduced to an ineffectual mush by idiotic training. I set him loose and sent him off to the Factory.
The worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any other royalties, and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of a deeper love and reverence than the customary human king, and would certainly get it. The eyes of the whole harried world would soon be fixed upon this humane and gentle system, and royal butchers would presently begin to disappear; their subjects would fill the vacancies with catlings from our own royal house; we should become a factory; we should supply the thrones of the world; within forty years all Europe would be governed by cats, wand we should furnish the cats. The reign of universal peace would begin then, to end no more forever…M-e-e-e-yow-ow-ow—fzt—wow!
“From our various works I selected all the men—boys I mean—whose faithfulness under whatsoever pressure I could swear to, and I called them together secretly and gave them their instructions. There are fifty-two of them; none younger than fourteen, and none above seventeen years old.”
“Why did you select boys?”
“Because all the others were born in an atmosphere of superstition and reared in it. It is in their blood and bones. We imagined we had educated it out of them; they thought so, too; the Interdict woke them up like a thunderclap! It revealed them to themselves, and it revealed them to me, too. With boys it was different. Such as have been under our training from seven to ten years have had no acquaintance with the Church’s terrors, and it was amongst these that I found my fifty-two.”