A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' is a satiric novel by Mark Twain that pokes fun at the old traditions of Europe. Read the lesson and take the quiz about one of the first time-travel novels to ever be written.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court was written in 1889 by Mark Twain. This novel is a satire of life in the Middle Ages, and is considered by many to be one of the earliest science fiction books.

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

Plot

A man named Hank Morgan, also known as the Yankee, works at a factory in Hartford, Connecticut in the late 1800s. During a fight, Hank is hit in the head and loses consciousness. He wakes up in a strange place, under an oak tree on the outskirts of Camelot. Hank is immediately challenged to a joust by Sir Kay, King Arthur's foster brother and a Knight of the Round Table. Hank quickly takes refuge up the same tree he has woken up under. He is then taken prisoner by Sir Kay.

Once Hank is brought to court, King Arthur and the others, especially the magician Merlin, make fun of his clothing. Initially, Hank assumes that he has gone mad and is in an asylum, but gradually becomes convinced of the situation. King Arthur orders that Hank be executed by being burned at the stake on June 21. Hank remembers that June 21, 528 was the day of a solar eclipse and decides to use his superior knowledge to save his life.

Hank sends a young boy, Clarence, to tell the King that if Hank is executed, his magic will blot out the sun. King Arthur ignores him, and the eclipse begins. King Arthur releases him, and Hank becomes the prime minister, respected by most of the court. They quickly rename Hank 'The Boss'.

The wizard Merlin doesn't like Hank's position, feeling it rivals his own. He tells the people that Hank cannot perform any more miracles. Hank makes gunpowder and destroys Merlin's tower, which makes the wizard hate him more and secures Hank's reputation as a powerful wizard. Hank sets up secret schools and factories, where he teaches modern English ideas and manufacturing.

Hank meets Demoiselle Alisande la Cartelouise, or Sandy, when he goes to save her mistresses from ogres. The mistresses turn out to be pigs, but Sandy believes they are enchanted. Hank buys the pigs and they bring them back to Camelot.

As they travel, the meet a group on a pilgrimage to a sacred fountain that has gone dry. Hank fixes the leak in the fountain, earning more enmity from Merlin, who had been trying to use magic to fix it.

1889 Book Cover
Original Book Cover

Hank and King Arthur pretend to be peasants to see how the poor live. They are captured by a nobleman who decides to sell them into slavery. Hank escapes but is captured and about to be hanged, but Launcelot and the knights arrive to save Hank and King Arthur. Surprisingly, they are riding bicycles.

Hank is challenged to a duel by Sir Sagramor and his men, who are given weapons by Merlin. Hank manages to defeat Sir Sagramor and his friends with a lasso and a pistol.

Years go by. Hank helps to modernize Camelot by building roads and schools. He marries Sandy and they have a baby girl. Sandy names the baby Hello-Central. The baby gets ill and Hank takes her out of the country. While he is gone, Arthur discovers that his wife Guinevere has been having an affair with Sir Launcelot. This causes a war between Arthur and Launcelot that ends with Arthur's death.

The country is thrown into chaos. Hank hides in a cave with some loyal teenage boys. There, they use modern inventions like land mines and electric fences to battle Launcelot's army.

Hank helps the wounded of the battle, but one of them stabs him. The boys bring him back to the cave, but Merlin appears and places them all into an enchanted sleep.

Hank wakes up in the present, dying in bed. All he can do is dream about Sandy.

Camelot
Camelot

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