Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's like ten thousand spoons - Graded Blog Entry

This particular text is ripe with examples of irony by Dr. Johns' explanation of it, some subtle and others not so much. Twain has always had a knack for writing with a sort of ironic, witty voice that shows through no matter who is narrating the story. Of all the subtle ironies present in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, I decided to take a different route, and go for one of the larger, more omnipresent ironies in the story, hoping it would allow me the opportunity to expand on my point enough to be sensible.

The Yankee spends a great deal of time pontificating about freemen. He explains that there are no free men in Britain, only "slaves, pure and simple, and bore that name...and the rest were slaves in fact, but without the name..." (61). Hank Morgan takes offense to the way that the common man is treated in Britain during this time period, and blames much of it on the evil of a government system such as monarchy.

Hank Morgan has a lot to say about monarchy and its failings, as does Twain. Twain once wrote in a letter, "I wish I might live fifty years longer; I believe I should see the thrones of Europe selling at auction for old iron. I believe I should really see the end of what is surely the grotesquest of all the swindles ever invented by man-- monarchy." (http://www.twainquotes.com/Monarchy.html). Many of Twain's feelings come off in the way the Yankee character thinks. Morgan's statements about how terrible monarchy is are peppered throughout the course of the story. He also points out several times that the only kind of acceptable government is a democratic one.

How can this be ironic if they both agree? Well, Hank only agrees to a certain point. Democracy is a great idea and anything else is just terrible, unless it's Hank that has a taste of that power, as evidenced by his writing, "The grandest field that ever was; and all my own; not a competitor; not a man who wasn't a baby to me in acquirements and capacities..." (60) and also "I was no shadow of a king; I was the substance; the king himself was the shadow. My power was colossal; and it was not a mere name, as such things have generally been, it was the genuine article." (60).

It seems obvious to me that Hank is going a little mad with power and at times using it only for his own gain. In fact, one could argue that his entire goal while in King Arthur's court is to profit, as he often makes allusions to business situations. Is this truly any better than what a king or queen would do? Much like a king or queen feels threatened by their potential successors or by the general public, Hank feels threatened by the only thing he admits he is weaker than (page 61) - the Catholic Church, and begins to take steps necessary to usurp it.

As he continues to protect himself and his best interests, always in the name of 'the people', ask yourself this: is Hank really any different than any other monarch?

Also, Mark Twain uses semicolons like crazy. I think I would have failed english in high school if I spit them out like he did. My copy of the book is different from everyone else's so if my page numbers are off let me know and I'll furnish chapter numbers and whatnot.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

The first couple paragraphs are reasonably well written, but we might ask what they're doing here; the first paragraph, especially, doesn't really do any work.

Things get interesting when you bring in the Twain quote: you're reminding us of the fact that, much of the time at least, Twain's views are much the same as Hank's. It's not all irony all the time (although Twain is perfectly capable of viewing himself and his own views ironically, of course).

Things get better after that. Although your ideas could use extension and further refinement (using the space that might theoretically have been saved at the beginning), the way in which Hank becomes a king by way of capital rather than birth is very important.

We'll be talking more about related issues on Friday - but I think you're spot on. This was the period of (I hate the phrase, but everyone knows it, so I'll use it) "The Robber Barons," after all -- the most powerful capitalists were portrayed as a kind of new American royalty, and you're getting at that element of the text.

Again, this theme could have used a little more focus, but it's good material.