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Sci Fi ApLit Project

Reader Response Journal
When I first picked up the book, I didn’t know what to expect. I really wasn’t interested in
any Science Fiction novellas but wanted to read one from an accredited writer. Thus, I
chose A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. My book first started
with Sir Lancelot’s tale of his reaching his fame. I was confused as to why Twain included
an except straight from the famous tales but saw it as more of an introduction/preface for
his following writing. As I read the story to where King Arthur is threatened and pardons
Hank, I noticed many historical allusions (with the help of google as well). When Sir
Lancelot confronts Hank on the street with a duel, it was comical as Hank was “oddly”
dressed and confused in his location. From there on, he was adamant in trying to utilize his
knowledge to rule the entire kingdom. The most impressive plan from Hank was utilizing
Christopher Columbus’s solar eclipse trick. By recognizing the date he was currently in as
a solar eclipse day, he was able to avoid his own death and gain King Arthur’s recognition
by naming him his assistant, much to Merlin’s disgust. This sequence of events in the
beginning of the story was promising to me in that there were numerous historical allusions
whilst being a scientific fiction novel. As a matter of fact, whenever Hank was making
progress towards creating firearms, it was interesting whenever he would plot schemes of
discrediting Merlin’s abilities by utilizing men by handing them explosives. The trust that
Hank had with those mercenaries, or his factory workers, was quite concerning because
any of them could have questioned or foiled Hank’s plans in the future (which consisted of
future colleges and more factories). By the middle of the novel, it was only right if Hank
finds a woman he could love and settle down with, even if she isn’t really the most stable.
Demoiselle Alisande a la Carteloise, or “Sandy”, was adamant in retaining some pigs from
a couple of herders she labeled as ‘ogres’. As the story progresses, Hank establishes himself
as the second strongest man in the world and embarks in a journey where he and King
Arthur are enslaved by a couple of slave holders from another empire. After being
emancipated, Arthur becomes susceptible to the concept od slavery. This was probably one
of the most consistent social justice that was apparent at the time Twain was writing the
novel, which was well after the Civil War. This side plot gave me an idea of how Twain
viewed the topic of slavery and how he did support this it at all. Near the end of the tale,
the downfall begins and is similar to Arthur’s documented downfall after he discovered his
wife having an affair with Sir Lancelot. As a result, a group of anarchists planned Hank to
leave to the country with his family and plotted a war that will overthrow the Arthurian
kingdom. Once Hank finds out, he takes a final stance in this time and falls short with
ammo as Merlin confronts his existence. I believe this tale as an innovative way to connect
modern technology to the 600 century technology and scientific beliefs.
Scientific Concepts Write-Up
Throughout the novel, I was genuinely curious how somebody with superior scientific
knowledge would be able to retain enough material and resource to plot a takeover of the
kingdom and society in general. In Hank’s situation and prior experience to firearm
business, Hank was able to add firepower and “magic” into his favor to convince people
that he was the second strongest man in the kingdom. By utilizing 18th century technology,
Hank was able to advance the kingdom by his own hands and snatch and expose Merlin’s
power. It’s extremely interesting once you look at how Hank was able to manufacture the
technology that existed in his original era and how he was able to use it to gain leverage
in fights. One weapon he utilized heavy was the lasso and his fighting style: it was
extremely similar to how cowboys would use them in rodeos, thus giving the protagonist
a label of “Yankee”. Furthermore, when Merlin challenges Hank to create another miracle,
it was seen that Hank utilized his knowledge of weather and chemistry to destroy Merlin’s
tower. Knowing that it will be a stormy season, Hank claimed that fire from heaven would
come down to strike Merlin for blasphemy. This would result to lighting striking his tower
that was wired by energy conducting material. Eventually, the explosives would set off
and level the tower, which destroyed Merlin’s reputation in the kingdom. After doing this,
Hank officially becomes titled to “King’s Minister” and creates private schools for few
selected people who were reluctant to the indoctrinate ideals of the current century. This
was only a farce for him to teach modern English and ideas to the youth. He then carries
on using scientific concepts for agriculture when he comes across this fountain that was
allegedly “corrupted” by a “demon”. In reality, the fountain was leaking, and Hank accepts
the challenge and carries on the act to make himself look better. Even after his marriage,
Hank was observed saying “Hello-central” in his sleep, a phrase used in the 19th century
on a telephone operator. Sandy then names her child this phrase and it becomes a motif
towards the end of the novel. In the whole, there are numerous scientific concepts utilized
in the novel, the main being firearms and how Hank manufactures and bears them in his
battles against noblemen and during the war against the Church. All the major scientific
discoveries in the 19th century, such as the Gatling gun, were carefully placed in the novel.
As a matter of fact, it coincided well with the ineffective armors the medieval knights and
warriors were wearing. It made sure that Hank will be far superior to others in that current
era and set him up for inevitable success. However, Twain assumed that no matter what
type of technology there was, King Arthur was never able to be dethroned by the order of
the Church. In fact, it seems that the Church still assumed massive power even if hank
exposed them in numerous areas. This eventually leads to his downfall as the Church
plotted his departure for coup de tat, but still shows how Church beliefs differ from
Scientific beliefs.
Critical Lens Analysis
Mark Twain was able to establish a lot of social commentary into his novel, most evident in
how he discussed slavery and criticized social standings. By applying Postcolonialism
lenses, is can be seen that when Hank and King Arthur embark on a journey with peasants
and encounter slavery and the process of emancipation, King Arthur finally sees the
injustice in keeping others captive. Enduring the physical abuse by the slave holders, King
Arthur was finally able to sympathize for those who were held captive against their will.
Twain was able to add his social commentary of emancipation by implying how
elites/nobles such as Arthur are unable to understand the misfortunates. There were reluctant
to doing any form of labor and became lethargic enough to be considerate. It was not only
till Arthur was held captive and abused till he became differentiated on how he should treat
the poor. In the beginning if the trip, Hank was skeptic on how King Arthur would be able
to survive with the nomadic lifestyle compared to his luxurious, extravagant lifestyle, but
wanted to show Arthur the other side of the Scottish kingdom. Thus, Twain utilizes a lot of
comparisons and contrasts to show Arthur’s rich perspective: “These missionaries would
gradually, and without creating suspicion or exciting alarm, introduce a rudimentary
cleanliness among the nobility, and from them it would work down to the people, if the
priests could be kept quiet. This would undermine the Church. I mean would be a step
toward that. Next, education—next, freedom—and then she would begin to crumble”
(Pg.214). In this quote, Twain emphasizes the advancement of the Church and the kingdom
as a whole but criticizes how they can’t move forward if they keep on ignoring education
and emancipation. Thus, it is seen that King Arthur realizes the flaws of society and chooses
to fix them to advance as a civilization. In fact, the Church plots a rebellion on Hank’s
government at the end of the novel, signifying how the Church’s reluctance to rid of slavery
leads to the King becoming susceptible for emancipation. Another lens that could be applied
is Marxist Criticism, where Hank refuses to dress as a noble. Instead, Hank remains to be to
look as a common man, a nod to how Americans do not support elitism. Although Hank
does take benefits from being the second strongest man in the kingdom, he utilizes his
position for the benefits of the kingdom in the long run. Another incident in the novel where
the economy is involved is Hank introducing the pistol after his duel. After Twain shows
that Hank has finally bought his strongest resource, there is a three year gap as to imply that
the firearm has extreme success in the kingdom’s future.
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