Mark Twain takes us back to the medieval period, in his book; he gives a life experience of Hank, an elite who is teleported to the said period. The novel picks notch when Hank can save himself, through a combination of luck and basic knowledge of the natural happenings, Hank can convince the king and the masses that he has supernatural powers. Hank makes deliberate effort to bring the nineteenth-century expertise to the said period. With personal effort and help from his assistant, he manages to bring the whole society to his feet. In the essay, an examination of how Hank can deal with what seems like extraordinary power is given. There is also an explanation on whether he uses the power he has to build the society or promote himself is given. Furthermore, evidence of how he handles the power he has in the community reveals whether he was establishing himself or the society.
How Hank helps to build a better society
Helping stop Slavery and imprisonment; the people during this time are presented as enslaved; Hank himself is also imprisoned at the start of the novel. It takes much effort to see that he liberates himself before he can liberate others. So, how is hank able to free the masses while he is in prison? Basic understanding of nature and how it operates makes it possible for him to save himself. Based on the fact that people of the said time are ignorant, they believe that a natural happening are the deeds of Hank.
After Hank liberates himself, he is tasked with liberating the people. The task is quite hard since he has to fight the fear in them and reduce the level of ignorance. King Arthur is instrumental in helping him end slavery and imprisonment; the king has to become enslaved so that he can understand the magnitude of the problem. So how does Hank do this, he makes the king get a feel of what people go through every day. The king can understand the hatred that they have for the church and the system of power when he encounters a woman with smallpox. "...you know what poverty is, and the daily insults of your betters, and the heavy hand of the Church and the king."(Twain and Ensor 212) The statement lands heavily on Author; it becomes clear that he may not be the best and people may not like him as they pretend to do. How the king handles the information leaves the reader wondering what efforts the king will make to end the slavery.
Besides the enslavement of the king and the nobles, circumstances have also enslaved the people. The monks in the book are believed not to have taken a bath for over a year since the water source that they relied on was dry. The circumstance is triggered more by belief and traditions. Hank can revive the water source and convince the monks that the happening was not their wrong. Besides having the brains to think and the hands to work, they were enslaved by natural circumstances and their blind trust in Merlin, the magician. In his first bath in a year, we are told that abbot took a bath that completely changed him, "He went down black and shaky, leaving the whole black community above troubled and worried and full of bodings; but he came back white and joyful, and the game was made! Another triumph scored" (Twain and Ensor 161). Even though he could not change their thinking, he was able to liberate them from their misery.
Breaking the Society and class systems that existed; Hank is privileged to mingle with both classes; however, there is a common issue between them, the level of ignorance and foolishness is high. He has a hard time dealing with the nobles who are arrogant while the peasants never bothered to stand for themselves while they were openly oppressed. To liberate the society, Hank strives to educate the poor on their rights; he encourages them to stand for what they believe is the right action. Moreover, he takes it upon himself to see that those who can be liberated are liberated. Even though the steps are minimal, he believes that gradual change will be felt in the long run. Apart from the king, Twain leaves the readers in suspense, would the other nobles be ready to break the class system in the kingdom?
On the other hand, he takes upon himself to tame the nobles. By taking up the witch, he helps break the belief that had held people into believing that they are under his spell. Through an education system that he creates, it becomes possible for the peasants to rise in the ranks and join the nobles much faster. For instance, his two aides are privileged to live a better life as compared to when they were not under him. Morgan Le Fay is a noble obsessed with class; she takes advantage of her position to oppress the poor. However, Yankee makes her stop abusing her power when she discovers that he has some form of authority. She confesses that she was just teasing him, "...as not doubting you would blast the guards with occult fires, consuming them to ashes on the spot, a marvel much beyond mine own ability, yet one which I have long been childishly curious to see." (Twain and Ensor 98)
Improving wisdom and knowledge: Hank is highly educated; this is evident because he was a factory manager in the nineteenth century. By being taken back to the medieval periods, he is like a man among apes. He is far above them in terms of thinking. The ability to make use of his knowledge makes him wise. How does he improve the society? He starts by raising the level of thinking of his aides. In the first days, Hank had a hard time dealing with Sandy, a pretty damsel who was in need of help from the Arthur. Even though she is pretty annoying to deal with, Hank can liberate her from her ignorance, and they become close, he even learns a few things from her. Would his wisdom and knowledge eventually spread to the masses?
Merlin is a wicked witch who has no real power, Hank is aware of this, and he isn't astonished by him. In fact, by taking him to a challenge, he was able to bring him down. Moreover, he had thousands of people from the countryside believe in him and thus, he had the absolute power to instill what he wanted upon them, for instance, Hank threatened that he would punish those who did not believe in him, "...I would perform but this one miracle at this time, and no more; if it failed to satisfy and any murmured, I would turn the murmurers into horses, and make them useful." (Twain and Ensor 41) His actions helped to remove power from merlin to himself; people were also made aware that knowledge was not exclusively owned. Even though the move is crucial in bringing insight to the people, liberating the masses is still a challenge that he has to overcome, with his efforts, would he overcome it?
Fighting the supernatural, a belief in the supernatural is already established in the kingdom; the willingness to follow the teachings of the church is high. Furthermore, people believe in a better afterlife and thus tend to ignore their current lives. Hank being a protestant isn't swayed by this; however, he is not in a position to help them in any way. For instance, he listens in awe as a woman on her deathbed describes the good life that her husband has in his death. She states, "He is in heaven now, and happy; or if not there, he abides in hell and is content; for in that place he will find neither abbot nor yet bishop." (Twain and Ensor 41) It is evident that even though he may have the willingness to help them out of their religious bondage, Hank would better opt out of the plan.
Despite the setbacks brought about by religion, what effort Hank makes to ensure that he liberates the people from superstations, it is evident that he takes advantage of their naivety to establish him. However, unlike Merlin who oppresses the people with the power he has, Hank makes use of his power to better the lives of the people. By making use of the power he has, he can balance between the progress and protect the people from outside intruders; therefore, it is evident that the power is being put to good use.
Throughout the essay, it is evident that Hank has come a long way before he is fully able to establish himself and start making significant progress in the kingdom. Even though there is too much resistance, he does not take advantage of the power that he has. Hank helps to deliver a new era, an era of progress, industrial revolution and enhanced information system. Even though he does not make the progress that he desires, the little development that he makes appeals to him. From the face look of it, he is far advanced in terms of knowledge as compared to the people he lives amongst. Taking advantage of this, he helps to answer whether a person can bring change in a society that is likely to reject it. Twain metaphorically uses this to compares today's society, is it possible to liberate the people from the challenges they face. Many issues that are a nuisance to today's society, but people still hold the solution to them or sell the solution for their benefit. Even though it takes time, it is clear that the community can be liberated.
Twain, Mark, and Allison R Ensor. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. New York, Norton, 1982.
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