A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.3 227
by Mark Twain

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes &


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the greatest satires in American literature, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court begins when Hank Morgan, a skilled mechanic in a nineteenth-century New England arms factory, is struck on the head during a quarrel and awakens to find himself among the knights and magicians of King Arthur’s Camelot.

What follows is a culture clash of the first magnitude, as practical-minded Hank, disgusted with the ignorance and superstition of the people, decides to enlighten them with education and technology. Through a series of wonderfully imaginative adventures, Twain celebrates American homespun ingenuity and democracy as compared to the backward ineptitude of a chivalric monarchy. At the same time, however, Twain raises the question of whether material progress necessarily creates a better society. As Hank becomes more powerful and self-righteous, he also becomes more ruthless, more autocratic, and less able to control events, until the only way out is a massively destructive war.

While the dark pessimism that would fully blossom in Twain’s later works can be discerned in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the novel will nevertheless be remembered primarily for its wild leaps of imagination, brilliant wit, and entertaining storytelling.

With over 200 of the original illustrations by Dan Beard.

Stephen Railton teaches American literature at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is Mark Twain: A Short Introduction.

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Barnes & Noble Classics Series

Read an Excerpt

From Stephen Railton’s Introduction to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court may be the world’s first novel about time travel. It certainly has the most fantastic plot of all Twain’s fictions. But the inspiration to send a modern American through time as well as space sprang directly out of Twain’s long-standing literary goals. The story of the story begins on a Saturday in December 1884, with Twain traveling around the country on a reading tour to promote Huck Finn. In a bookstore in Rochester, New York, George Washington Cable, his fellow novelist and partner on the tour, suggested that Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur), Sir Thomas Malory’s classic romance about the knights of the Round Table, would make good reading matter for the trip. Twain bought the book, began reading it the next day, and shortly afterward made a note in his journal about an idea for a sketch:

Dream of being a knight errant in armor in the middle ages. Have the notions & habits of thought of the present day mixed with the necessities of that. No pockets in the armor. No way to manage certain requirements of nature. Can’t scratch. Cold in the head—can’t blow—can’t get a handkerchief, can’t use iron sleeve.

The emphasis here is on the idea’s comic possibilities. The literary goal Twain’s audience always expected him to put first was making them laugh. As a professional humorist, one of the first tricks he learned is that people are much more likely to laugh when they’re nervous or uncomfortable. Sex, for example, that staple of modern stand-up, is not inherently funny, but it is a subject to which almost everyone attaches some degree of discomfort. The mores of Twain’s late-Victorian America ruled out sex as a subject; people laugh when they’re anxious, not when they’re offended or shocked. But the principle of making an audience uneasy enough to laugh applies to any subject in which they are emotionally over-invested, and his culture’s proprieties and evasions gave Twain many other opportunities to make his audience uneasy. One of his favorite strategies was treating something they considered sacred in a mocking or irreverent spirit. A knight in shining armor was a subject that you were supposed to approach on bended knees. If, while looking up at that knight, you notice his nose is running, the disequilibrium caused by this clash between the sacred and profane, between what a culture enshrines and what it represses, will probably seek to discharge itself through laughter. The movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail proves that Camelot is still a target-rich environment for comedy to attack; and in Mark Twain’s time, when the standard for depicting the days of knights was set by elegiac works like Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (finished in 1885), the territory Twain works in the novel was even more vulnerable to burlesque and parody.

Twain never forgot that the job his readers paid him for was making them laugh, but that was only one of his literary goals. In an autobiographical dictation made near the end of his life, he explains how his achievement differs from that of “mere humorists” by asserting that “I have always preached.” As a text for a sermon, that dream of being a knight whose body itches in places he can’t reach points toward Twain’s project as an American realist. To Twain as a humorist, texts like Malory’s book were good things to make fun of, the “straight” resources he could exploit. But Twain also belonged to the generation of nineteenth-century novelists who defined their work as a revolt against the romance tradition. Giving that archetype of romance heroism, the knight in armor, the common “requirements of nature” exposes the ideal world of books to the real world of such things as bodily “necessities.” Hank’s favorite expletive throughout Connecticut Yankee is “Great Scott!” This is Twain’s way of keeping his narrative in dialogue with the medieval novels of Walter Scott, the British writer who, for him, epitomized the factitiousness of literary romance. Twain talks about Scott directly in Life on the Mississippi, where he makes it clear that his quarrel is not simply aesthetic. Scott, according to Twain, did “more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any individual that ever wrote”; a book like Scott’s Ivanhoe was even “in great measure responsible” for the Civil War, because its unrealistic representations warped the minds of the white South away from “the genuine and wholesome civilization of the nineteenth century” and toward “the jejune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead.” (There is an echo of this charge in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, where we’re told that the horse on which Sutpen rides off to the war got its name from a Scott novel.) What Twain says in Life about history anticipates the argument he puts into Hank’s mouth: that the true Reign of Terror was not the violence of the French Revolution, but the ancien régime, the centuries of aristocratic privilege and abuse—Hank calls it “a thousand years of such villainy.” Because of enchanters like Malory, Scott, and Tennyson it is the past that “none of us has been taught to see . . . as it deserves.”

That is Hank’s job: to cure readers of what (in Life on the Mississippi) Twain calls “the Sir Walter disease” by teaching them to see the feudal realities left out of Scott’s account. At the start Hank tells us that he is “barren of sentiment” and “poetry.” Thus he can serve as an accurate reporter on the medieval world that Scott represents by chivalrous heroes like Ivanhoe and beautiful heroines like Rowena. Alongside the “noble cavalcade” of plumed knights in chapter 1, for instance, Hank also sees “the muck, and swine, and naked brats . . . and shabby huts,” the reality of life for the common people of Arthur’s realm, the poverty, ignorance, injustice, and slavery that never get described in the ideal world romance creates. Having brought Hank across 1,300 years Twain takes him on two more trips, both through Arthur’s realm: first with Sandy (chapters 11–20), then with the King (chapters 27–38). The sights Hank sees on these travels—the tortured prisoners in Morgan le Fay’s dungeon, the impoverished peasant family dying of smallpox—work to disenchant readers of any nostalgia they might have felt for the mythic past.

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A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 227 reviews.
DaveWheeler More than 1 year ago
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is a superb book and I highly recommend you check it out, so you may be wondering why I am reviewing this as one star only. This version of the nook book is busted, in the middle of chapter 39 (XXXIX) it cuts to an entirely different book! If this is what Barnes and Nobles is going to let happen to the nook this device will fail horribly.
Ramona Downing More than 1 year ago
Too many pages are missing or unreadable to even follow the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book... when it's more than three pages of the book! Seriously, this is seven pages of unreadable BS. Thanks for taking up storage space, ripoff! I'd give it zero if I could.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entire book consisted of 7 pages, beginning on page 304 of the original book, followed by 305, 384, and then the End.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This version is part of Google's initiative to digitize books. It clearly has been scanned and had OCR (optical character recognition) run to convert to digital text, with NO PROOFING of the scan, leaving numerous incorrect characters - typically several words per page with errors. Very distracting to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would love to read this sometime, but not this way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are just too many spelling mistakes in this version. I quit after only 2 pages. Hopefully you can find a better copy than this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are 2 actual pages of almost unreadable words. Whole story is not here.
eurekatpt More than 1 year ago
Plodded through this ebook. Wanted to read it because it was a classic but in finishing it, I've decided I'm not a big fan of social commentaries. Definitely had several humorous moments though and witty one-liners.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How about a refund?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are too full of yourself, or consider yourself of nobility, this book will give you an idea of Mark Twain's feeling about people like that. You have to not be too thin-skinned as he only thinly disguises his feelings. But the story is classic and a fun read as long as you recognize what Mark Twain is doing. A lot stretches the imagination, but in some cases that exercise is a good thing. It was not meant to be taken literally, since the premise is not actually possible, but is one man's opinion of what seemed to be wrong with the world. It's dressed in medieval garb, and a fun read. Don't miss this because of what others said - try it for yourself, and persevere through the entire book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hopefully this review is tied to the right file - the one with a portrait of Mark Twain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Too many typos and "strange" symbols.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth the storage space.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was excited to read this book, but part of the story was cut off!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was ok. There were a bunch of typos which made it annoying. Some parts were exciting and others were just plain boring, but what really bothered me though is the way the author critisizes the Church!!! What he says is simply NOT true and the reader should not believe it. -someone who knows what she's talking about
Cal-Dream-in More than 1 year ago
Reads like to days stupid headlines. Twain would laugh American government today, and it's NEVER good to have Twain laughing at you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, so i havent read the book, but i have found that if one book like this doesnt have eveeything, then you find the exact same one and see which one is correct. Hope thisheelps!