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am 19. Juni 2000
I know this book was boring and humorless to a lot of students and I can understand why. Things like the telegraph mean nothing to us now, but in Mark Twain's time it was hot technology like a rocket or the Internet are to us today.
Mark Twain was saying, what if we took our modern technology back to a time when people believed in magic and faught with swords and armor. Whoever did this could probably convince these people that the technology was a superior magic and could use this knowledge to dominate them.
This is what happens in the story, but only for awhile. Eventually, even the people in King Arthur's court adjust to having the new technology and no longer see it as magic. For example, the people running the telephone exchange don't care about the Connecticut Yankee's "magic" they just want to keep the lines of communication open with Camelot.
This kind of story is called "satire". It is basically a story that teaches us something by making fun of something else. In this story, Mark Twain makes fun of the kind of people who think they can accomplish anything with technology. The Yankee thinks that he can use technology to trick the nights of King Arthur's court and to manipulate them. At first he succeeds, but gradually they become so immersed in the technology that they don't care about magic and legends any more. Once their mental landscape changes, the Yankee has lost the context he needed to control them. The main argument here is that technology does not solve everything, it just produces new problems. And the kind of people who worship technology are bound to fail in one way or another.
Hope this helps.
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am 27. Mai 1999
Imagine yourself thrown back fourteen hundred years to the kingdom of the legendary Arthur. Add some technical know-how, a touch of arrogance, and a taste for adventure, and you would be Hank Morgan. The successful head superintendent of an arms factory, Morgan is sent back in time by a nasty knock on the head, and finds himself a prisoner at the court of the once and future king. Through an incredible knowledge of astronomy, and mechanics, and his natural intelligence, he finds his way to the top of the Arthurian power structure, and becomes The Boss. Posing as a powerful magician, he impresses the people and the court with magnificent firework displays, stellar predictions, and other "tricks" that today are taken for granted. As he learns more about the social inequalities in the culture that he has no choice but to live in, he comes to the conclusion that he must free the masses from the oppression of the nobility. Morgan attempts to impose the ideals, governing system, and ways of thinking of the industrialized 19th century onto the primitive 6th century. Secretly, he develops a civilization of his own time inside Arthur's Kingdom, his eventual goal being to destroy every remnant of the old ways, and replace them with the new. Traveling the kingdom, Morgan spreads his influence and his beliefs. He encounters on his adventures both heartbreaking situations of cruelty, and heartwarming scenes of humanity. Throughout the whole kingdom, however, he always sees the need to destroy the feudal system. Twain teaches us something through Morgan's determination, and something else by the calamitous ending of the book. The good: A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur is probably the most accurate of all the king Arthur Legends, as far as describing the daily life, customs, and superstitions of the people of the period. It does not lionize the Knights of the Round Table, but at the same time it does not speak of them as savages, as some accounts do. Similarly, it makes the people out to be decent, simple, and yes, sheep, but not total fools. A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur describes the time impartially, meticulously, and colorfully. There is not the element of glamorization just as there is not the element of degradation. Twain's use of the first-person narration makes the story more realistic; the people who are dying of small pox are horrifyingly well described, and the grandeur with the banners and shining armor at a joust is equally enticing. Most importantly, this book flows well: each event leads to the next, and it all fits together nicely. The twist that Twain puts on the end superbly concludes the story, and it makes you really think. The not-so-good: A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur does move slowly at times. Also, the main character, Hank Morgan, is excessively American. Twain really overuses the baseball metaphors, and Morgan's contempt for all forms of mysticism and non-scientific explanations of things damages the atmosphere of the book. His impatience with the people who do not understand his speech and ideas, and his general attitude of superiority make him slightly less likeable, and more difficult to pay attention to. It is sometimes hard to bear Hank Morgan's thoughtless destruction of 6th century culture, and his obsession with the wonder of technology. The sometimes absurdly long descriptions, vivid pictures of violence, and overall length of this book would make it difficult for people under about twelve or thirteen to enjoy. Mark Twain is sending several messages in writing this book. The first and perhaps most important is that attention should be paid to the way in which a culture develops. Hank ultimately destroys Arthurian England as it was know, because he advances only the parts of the culture that he personally believes to be important. Twain is saying that if we are not involved in our world, everything is out of our control, and we can only hope that the reins fall into the right hands. Morgan's downfall can be attributed to this and to the fact that he disbelieves all other powers besides science, and even more than disbelieves dismisses them. Another main point that this book incorporates is that no one power should be allowed to become too strong. Twain reinforces this point with the examples of the Church and of Hank Morgan. A Yankee at the Court of King Arthur addresses issues that face Mark Twain's time and issues that face ours. It brings many ideas, messages, and themes together into a cohesive body. With Camelot as the backdrop, Morgan's story as the message and Twains engaging style as the messenger, this book is delightful.
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Mark Twain wrote this book after the success of his earlier travel books, though 'Life on the Mississippi' is hardly what one may call a traditional travel book but then neither are his earlier ones like 'The Innocencts Abroad'. A number of chapters had been previously published as a series of newspaper articles and describe Samuel Clemens's training as a Mississippi steamboat pilot before the Civil War. The other part of the book is largely based on Mark Twain's visit to the river in 1881, a trip he made expressly to gather material for this book and observe the changes time had brought to the Mississippi now sadly depleted of steamboats.
Written with wry humour the book covers a whole variety of subjects in this book, not only what one may expect like a history of the river or Mark Twain's own experiences on it and tall tales told to him and by him. Sometimes it is difficult to decide how far to trust the author and his reminscences. There are Indian legends and sarcastic observations and also some quite serious discussions on history, society or the question of why the recent war (known today mostly as the Civil War but also as the War between the States) was still so much on the mind of the people in the South. I particularly liked his theory that the war was caused by Sir Walter Scott's romances.
It is an interesting, amusing and informative book, but I think the reader has to have a previous interest in either the Mississippi, steamboats, Mark Twain or history to appreciate the book. For those who are interested in one or several of these topics this is a book well worth reading.
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am 9. Juni 2009
I've read anything that has ever been published on King Arthur *and* I like time travel stories, so I cannot say my opinion is unbiased. This is a delightful read, very witty, you'll smile or laugh out loud regularly. Twain mixes modern American language with "antique" English. Hank, the main character, is an American contemporary guy, who finds himself in Arthurian times. He uses his knowledge to enchant and manipulate the people surrounding him. Didn't you ever dream about walking the streets of a long past era?
am 19. September 2014
In this book Mark Twain evokes the glory days of the Mississippi steamboats which started about 1812 and lasted less than 60 years, a "strangely short life for so majestic a creature".
He brings to life the excitement, the adventure, the dangers, the beauty of working on a mighty, untamed river. He describes the life of the people living along its banks, their idiosyncracies, their manner of speech, their taste in decorating, their entertainment, their fight for survival. We get so many facts, so much information about life on and along the river that one feels what's not in this book is not worth knowing.
There is much hilarity as when Mark Twain recalls his own training as a steamboat pilot (he had to learn by heart twelve or thirteen hundred miles of river) or remembers extraordinary characters he met. There is tragedy and heroism as well as it was not rare that steamboats blew up resulting in many deaths and terrible injuries (Mark Twain's beloved younger brother Henry lost his life after four boilers blew up on the "Pennsylvania"). He talks of the spectacular sunsets, pitchblack nights, raging storms, the wildness, loneliness and grandiose vastness of the Mississippi.
When he returns about 20 years later the river was in the process of being tamed ("government has snatched out all the snags, and lit up the shores like Broadway), there were "great and strange" changes and the pilot's work was easier and less dangerous but some of the romance had gone out of it. He meets old friends, visits his home town Hannibal and marvels at the beautiful new cities springing up in the North.
Having said all that, I feel the book would have benefitted from being shorter and concentrating on the subject. Especially in the second half Mark Twain goes off on a tangent more and more often, resulting in disconnected and boring chapters, and Appendix D should definitely have been left out.
am 27. Mai 1999
This novel by Mark Twain tells the story of a man who is swept back in time to the Dark Ages, the supposed period that Arthur and his round table existed. The story seems light hearted and fun throughout most of the text, but it was also written to make apparent the problems of medieval socity, specifically the form of government, which was feudalsim. Fuedalism's downfalls are thoroughly ecplored all throughout the novel by hank Morgan, the main character, as he thoughout the land trying to show the people of the time how wrong the way they live is. mark twain's writin style comes through very stronglyin thsi novel. Like many of his other books (Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn) CYKAC at first glance looks and reads like a children's story. but as further reading and closer study show this is not correct. Several times very graphic descriptions of death and fighting are used and many of the issues addressed by Twain take a knowledgeable mind to be comprehended. This style of writing is misleading at times, because of the way the author describes people and things in a light hearted an almost comical manner. He also labels characters throughout the story with odd names and titles. The light-hearted nature soon fades away when the author paints a picture of families being separated by slavery or the injustice of the Church to the people it is supposed to serve. Twain's writing style may be misleading, but it adds flavor and diversity to the text that is hard to find in other novels. The story That Twain writes is really a parody of the Arthurian legends we all know. Twain keeps the same names and positions of the characters, but completely changes their personalities from what we are used to. Many times when a character is into\roduced it is shocking to think of them the way Twain wants us too. But what he really is doing is showing us realistically what King Arthur and his knights would be like if they had existed in medieval times. The author's perception of the characters real, more human selves was believable, but in contrast the exploits of hank Morgan were astronomicaly unbelievable. hank's adventures throughout the kingdom were entertaining, but were bogged down by the issues that the author wanted to bring across to the reader. more comic relief was needed to keep the reader from becoming depressed and to keep the story moving. Over all CYKAC was fun to read and well written, even though it could have done without some of the lectures and soul grabbing that the author throws at you. The ideas taht Hank comes up with are fascinating and totally unbelievalbe, but I still enjoyed them. The change in the characters personalities were a welcome change form the traditional "knights in shining armor" mold used in many other Arthur novels. It gave the story a new boost and helped separate it from the rest of the Arthurian legends. At times it may have been slow, but the freshness and diversity of the book kept me from putting it down, and I think you to will agree with me if you decide to read this novel
am 10. Mai 1998
Well, the perfect companion to La Morte d'Arthur...
Twain completely dissects the "good ol' days" of Arthurian Britain by exposing the vicious social practices of the time: white slavery, le droit de seigneur, confiscation of property in event of suicide, the complete lack of impartial justice, the degrading influence of the Church on the mass, etcetera etcetera etcetera...
The Arthurian legends are wonderful tales, but they are a mythic literary production; Twain deals with the brutal reality of daily living in the Dark Ages, and points out that the good ol' days were not so good, anyway.
As for its applicability to modern America, I am not fit to judge. Perhaps it's there. But "The Connecticut Yankee" is a wonderful tonic for those prone to romanticizing the past. Twain seems to agree with Tom Paine that the English nobility were "no-ability", and simply the latest in a series of robbers.
And, of course, the book is stuffed with wonderful Twainisms... My favorite is his observation that a conscience is a very inconvenient thing, and the significant difference between a conscience and an anvil is that, if you had an anvil inside you, it would be alot less uncomfortable than having the conscience.
Twain also mentions the beautiful mispronunciations of childhood, and how the bereaved parental ear listens in vain for them once children have grown.
You'll never look at castles the same again...
am 13. April 2011
Ich kenne kaum einen Autor, der so geistreich und kurzweilig schreibt wie Mark Twain. Seine Sprache ist einfach und genial zu gleich. Man fühlt sich einfach unglaublich wohl in seinen Büchern, zumal sein ironischer Humor nie bissig-böse rüberkommt, sondern immer mit dem berühmten "twinkle in the eye". Dabei halte ich es für essentiell, seine Bücher im englichen Original zu lesen, da in den Übersetzungen die Hälfte des oft auf Sprachwitz basierenden Humors verloren geht.
"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" ist die Geschichte eines Mannes, den es aus dem 19. ins 6. Jahrhundert verschlägt. Bald landet er als Gefangener an König Arthurs Hof, wo ihn Sitten und Gebräuche, die allgemeine Unwissenheit, Aberglauben und vor allem die gesellschaftliche Struktur von Adel, Rittertum, Kirche und armen Bauern sehr befremdet. Mit seinem enormen Wissensvorsprung und technischen Tricks verschafft er sich schließlich als Konkurrent des Scharlatans Merlin die Position als rechte Hand des Königs und man hält ihn im ganzen Land für einen großen Zauberer. Diese Stellung nutzt er, um gegen die herrschende Ordnung, die Unterdrückung von Bauern und Sklaven zu kämpfen. In die außerordentlich witzigen Episoden eingebettet ist Gesellschaftskritik, die häufig den Bogen zu den Zuständen im 19. Jahrhundert schlägt.
Wer das Buch ausgelesen hat, wird sich womöglich, so wie ich, sofort das nächste Buch von Mark Twain bestellen.
am 6. Juni 2000
Mark Twain, the most globally recognised of the greatest American writers, comes closest to autobiography in this odd and fascinating book. This is the story of part of his life at least, and lays out much of his unique moral and political philosophy.
As a book, Life on the Mississippi lacks a truly coherent story line after the half-way point; it tells the story of Twain's training as a Mississippi steamboat pilot, then, when he returns to the river years later as a successful writer, it drops off into anecdotes as Twain travels down the great river, and can be a deadly bore for some readers.
But, oh, what a picture of Twain it draws! There are great tales of characters he meets along the river, told in his inimitably funny style, wonderful bits of his childhood - like the tale of his insomniac guilt and terror when the match he loans a drunk ends up causing the jail to burn down, killing the drunk - and insightful portraits of the towns and villages along the river.
This is a characteristically American book, about progress and independence as well as the greatest American river, written by this most characteristically American writer. It is a true classic (a thing Twain despised! He said, "Classics are books that everybody praises, but nobody reads."), a book that will remain a delight for the foreseeable future.
am 26. März 1999
Twain brings up a lot of interesting points which, although not new, may seem so because of the manner and voice he uses to bring them up. Some consider this work "chaotic," but I don't agree. Yes, he does attempt a lot in this work- humor, the relation of an exciting tale, and questioning mankind and society, but the book still has a flow. It contrasts the nineteenth century dependence on technology and efficiency with a pseudo sixth century that uses a caste system and rigidly follows codes of chivalry. The ending was not particularly insightful, as one would expect, but it still satisfied me. The book had me chuckling much of the time- I mean, can you just picture Sir Launcelot with a few hundred knights, in their armor, and riding bicycles?! Or a knight, in the lists at a tournament, being lassoed cowboy style?! It was also interesting to read because it gives you a sense of life in Twain's time, with a few references to the Civil War, or the dispute over currency... And, hey, you've gotta love Hello-Central!