One of the more striking passages I noticed when I read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court was when the Yankee first appeared at the round table. The Yankee calls them “a childlike and innocent lot” (53). These medieval people from the perspective of the 19th century Yankee or our 21st century perspective are backward. They have unscientific ways. They believe in magic and tall tales that are told at the Round Table. This is neither the first nor the last reference to the people of this age being like children. The analogy keeps on reoccurring when comparing the uneducated backwardness of the citizens of the past.
This analogy is a tool or technique that Twain is using to convey the what we as modern people might think about these inhabitants of centuries ago. This viewpoint is held by the Yankee and is part of his inspiration to improve their lives with his knowledge. Twain is in this instance showing that man of King Arthur’s time to be inferior to today’s civilization.
This bias is different from the two other narratives we have been exposed to in class: Modern Times and Life in the Iron Mills. They take a negative view of technology, showing that man is caught up in all the machinery. Twain, however, shows that the people with out this technology are uncivilized and lack the basic values that modern man has.
This scene in the court shows a few things. First, people are ignorant because no one ever questions any of the stories that the knights are telling. They just accept the far out stories as fact. There are dogfights, which show that these people are savage enough to make dogs fight each other. Surely, the civilized person of the 19th century would be appalled by dogfighting. Third, the people of high class spoke vulgarly. This is peculiar to the Yankee, but he reasons that they did not know any better since the convention of speaking politely or with class had not been contrived.
If these medieval people are childlike, then to extend the analogy the Yankee would be an adult, sensible and educated. However, instead of mere children, these people are dangerous. This is evident in how they almost execute the Yankee. These ‘children’ will not blindly believe the Yankee, because he has to be careful on what he says so he does not break the traditions of the time or anger the Catholic Church.
Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court. Penguin Classics: 1986.