Sunday, January 27, 2008

Joe Liu's Informal post #2 - Arthur's kindness

Something that caught my attention last week when I was reading Twain:

Page 268, The Small Pox Hut
“ . . . He was great, now; sublimely great. The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition – I would see to that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon, like the rest, it would be a king in commoner’s garb bearing death in his arms that a peasant mother might look her last upon her child and be comforted.”

Although Hank often showed his dislike for the King (his ignorance, mainly), the nobles, and people with very fancy titles, for some reason, my liking towards him was increased a great amount after reading this passage. In my opinion, Hank really displays his true colors in this paragraph. Although I think he sometimes generalizes way too much about everything (thinking EVERYONE is ignorant, thinking EVERYONE is too believable in everything, etc.), his actions here showed me that he really did pay attention to other people asides from himself (specifically, how highly he thought of himself throughout the whole book even though he has 1300 years on everyone else).

Reading the book, I often thought that he never really noticed anyone else’s actions except for people that challenged him (Merlin), or people that would praise him. Arthur really showed his true knightly hood by helping the poor in this passage, which really surprised me too. I would have thought that he would have just wanted to run away from the little hut (where smallpox was . . . a very contagious disease!) (I bet even Hank thought that too), but he stayed, and I think he genuinely wanted to help, even if it wasn’t part of the knight’s code. I wonder why Twain did this. Throughout the whole book, he seems to be mocking everything about the era, but maybe that is because I see Hank as Mark Twain himself. However, he really redeems Arthur in this chapter and shows him to be the Arthur that we all probably imagined him to be. I always imagined King Arthur and the Knights of the Round table to be the most heroic people ever, who protected the poor and battled the evil (somewhat like the summoning materia in FF7, which I know, is really random for me to have thought of). Twain really hasn’t shown that side of the knights until here in the story. It’s ironic too, that Arthur did this in the most modest of clothing, and that the dying woman did not even know that it was a King that was helping her.

This part of the story stayed with me for some reason, and maybe it did for most of you readers too. Hopefully I’m not completely reading the text in the wrong way and misinterpreting it all.


Courtney said...

Maybe Twain decided to put that in there to show that there is some sort of connection between how people think in the 6th and 19th centuries. People can still think and show kindness, and maybe some morals are the same even though they may not think (technologically, politically, etc.) the same because the years are so widely spaced apart. Or I could be completely wrong, just trying to draw some sort of a connection.

Adam Johns said...

Nice post (and nice response, Courtney). One way I read this section -- which is very important to the book -- is to see it as illustrating not just who the king _is_ but who he _might be_: Hank usually portrays him as a fool and a tyrant, but this shows an enormous potential for goodness, even if it isn't realized in his environment (which might raise questions, in a Davis-like manner, about what potential is being suppressed in 19th century America).