Editor’s Note: This was an assignment from Excellence in Literature in which Miranda responded to a prompt about social issues in writing. 10th Grade
Hardships and Inequalities
In most stories the author uses their characters’ views and morals to reflect their own. Whether it is something as simple as a love for dogs or something as serious as their views on monarchy, authors express themselves in their stories. Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is no different. Twain used A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to illustrate his own views on slavery and the views of 19th century America.
In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Hank is transported to the time of King Arthur. Through a series of events he becomes “The Boss,” a high power in the kingdom, and decides that he is going to try and change the crude ways of Camelot.
One of the problems Hank strives to correct is slavery. Slavery was a large dilemma in Camelot, where everyone who wasn’t a noble was, in his eyes, a slave. Most of King Arthur’s British nation were slaves, pure and simple, and bore that name and wore the iron collar on their necks; the rest were slaves in fact, but without the name. (8.3)
Hank tried to free the slaves slowly in order to prevent a revolt from the knights. He took King Arthur on a journey disguised as peasants to show Arthur how the people were treated. After they end up being taken captive and sold as slaves, Arthur finally realizes how bad slavery really is. After a long hard journey slavery finally comes to an end in chapter 40. Slavery was dead and gone; all men were equal before the law; taxation had been equalized. (40.2)
Throughout the book Hank’s views on slavery are made very clear. He is disgusted with the way slaves are treated and tries with all his might to set them free. These negative thoughts against bondage seem to come straight from Mark Twain himself.
As a young boy Mark Twain (Samuel Clemmons) lived in a small city in Missouri. In this small city slavery was still legal and very prominent. Twain grew up talking to the slaves and listening to their stories. A Twain biographer by the name of Ron Powers says, “Race was always a factor in his consciousness partly because black people and black voices were the norm for him before he understood there were differences. They were the first voices of his youth and the most powerful, the most metaphorical, the most vivid storytelling voices of his childhood.” But soon the problem of slavery became very clear when Twain witnessed the shooting of a slave and found the body of another in a river. After this Twain struggled with the way slaves were treated his entire life.
In almost all his books Twain has a very strong view against slavery. These views reflect his own and are strengthened by the force of the pro-slavery movements of his time. Against all that he had been told as a child, Twain fought for freedom. Even though he couldn’t free the slaves in his own time, Twain fought for the ones in his stories.