Home > Free Essays > Literature > Concepts in American Novels > “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain

“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain Research Paper

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Oct 1st, 2021

Introduction

Literature and literary pieces, like any work of art, is the treasure of humanity for every age and this characteristic feature of the literary creations meaningful to the people of every age and place. The novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain presents one of the most apparent illustrations of this universality of literary works. The novel has an underlying meaning for the readers of every age and this meaning becomes clear when the novel is used to understand the power of the Church through various periods of history.

The description of the novel

A critical analysis of the main themes of the novel by Mark Twain categorically proves the role of the church in the lives of its followers and the power it has bestowed upon the world through various periods of history. A Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court, written in the late 1800’s, can be regarded as a slam by the writer on the church, the views of slavery, and even the advancement of technology.

Specifically, the power which the church holds in connection with the lifestyles of its followers, advancement in technology, and government becomes one of the focal points of the novel. In fact, the relevance of these concepts of the writer may be found in the way they affect the past as well as the present which was the future at the hands of the novelist. Therefore, it becomes evident that the church, in the past, enjoyed such great powers which helped it in creating laws, regulations, and even initiating wars with the tap of a pen. In the present era, the power of the church has diminished considerably and not so many people are afraid of the power of the church which could take away their ability to be upfront with their tactics as they must also use politics in the form of government to make changes.

However, it does not mean that the church does not have great significance, but in fact the church still plays a major part in world decisions backed with the power of money. In the essay, the focus has been on a comparative investigation into the power of the church through the 6th, 19th, and even the 20th century and the use of the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain has been used as the setting for the analysis of the power of the church.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court has been praised for the variety of underlying themes and the power of the church in affecting the lives of its followers. The source of the brilliance, humor, and the themes of the novel, as the Connecticut Yankee perceives it, is the concurrence of times and its attendant values. Hank Morgan may be related with the mythic King Arthur, who represents his age and the age of romantic chivalry, and the type figure of the nineteenth century man is freedom minded, shrewd and technocratic. This context presents the background of the major themes of the novel and the power of the church appears to be the leading theme of the novel.

The Yankee in the novel presents the most apparent illustration of the manipulative power of the church and this has been clarified by the analyses of the novel’s themes. “Twain’s Yankee’s greatest fear and ultimate enemy is the Roman Catholic Church, which to him embodies the evils of manipulating religion for political purposes. He states that ‘the established church is only a political machine,’ bereft of the spiritual functions that it purports to serve.

Hank accuses the church for shoring up the ills of the sixth century society: superstition; hereditary nobility; social inequality; the meek subservience of the masses to authority and tradition.” (Major Themes). Thus, the novel’s core theme relates to the overwhelming power the church and the fictional story has been effective in deriving several ideas of the irresistible power of the church.

In the given background of the novel and the theme of the overwhelming power of the church, it is pertinent to relate that the power at the hands of the church has affected many decisions from home to government. The unchecked power held by the church also played a formative role in the educational system of the world and the schools used to be regulated by the church. However, in the present era, these educational systems are being slowly pushed out of the power of the church.

In an understanding of the seminal role of the church in the world affairs, it is also considerable that every form of currency around the world has been directly related to a specific religion in some way, usually in the form of slogans or pictures of religious leaders. The relevance of the church in this relation is indisputable. Also, the governments of the world were, once, ruled by the church and its institutions. In the current times, the church realizes its own role with the use of the same government they regulated as a loop hole into current rules and regulations. All these aspects helped Mark Twain when he used his status as a writer to bring forward these problems to common view.

Unfortunately, he was unable to speak down on the church directly. Therefore, he used imagination and fiction to represent the church in his time through the stories of past times and the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the result of such an attempt. There are several instances where the novel connects to the Roman Catholic Church’s sarcastic influence on society. In one of such instances, the narrator of the novel remarks, “In two or three little centuries it had converted a nation of men to a nation of worms. Before the day of the Church’s supremacy in the world, men were men, and held their heads up, and had a man’s pride and spirit and independence; and what of greatness and position a person got, he got mainly by achievement, not by birth.

But then the Church came to the front, with an axe to grind; and she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat — or a nation; she invented ‘divine right of kings,’ and propped it all around, brick by brick, with the Beatitudes — wrenching them from their good purpose to make them fortify an evil one…” (Twain, pp 45-46).

Thus, the novel is categorical about the unrestrained power of the church in affecting the lives of its followers. Mark Twain perceives such an unwarranted role of the church as a tool for repressing the freedom and sovereignty of human beings by way of removing their inbuilt power from them and subordinating them to the dominant people who allege to speak on behalf of God. And the wrath of the author is not against the Catholic Church alone but every conventional church which implements the power on the followers. This alarming role of the church and its power on the different institutions of the man becomes evident in an analysis of the historical facts.

The role of the church has been, through years, related with power and domination through various agencies and institutions. Its power has been historically felt in the governments, the educational systems, and other modes of power systems and the rules and regulations of the church have been held closely by the several nations. The earliest history related with the rise of Jesus Christ and the growth of Christianity may be considered here.

In fact, the punishments instilled on those who followed Christianity as well as the suffering of the early Christians have become forgotten history. The emergence of the church as in the fifth century A.D as the Roman Empire came to a collapse has significance as it marks the surfacing of an era of unwarranted power. The Middle Ages has seen the emergence of the church as one of the crucial powers of the world. “Over the next seven centuries, until the beginning of the Renaissance, the European continent was intended to function as one Christian state, with the Catholic Church playing the central role in governing the lives of its people.

In 1231, Pope Gregory IX officially formalized the mission of the Holy Office, or Inquisition, to deal with heretics against the church, as well as moral crimes.” (Surviving History: Could you have survived?: Fall of the Empire, Rise of the Church). For the following years of the history, the world has evidenced the importance of the role played by the church. Thus, the church became an institution of power to carry forward the rules and regulations of the powerful empires such as the Ancient Greece and Rome.

The overwhelming power of the church in determining the government policies is evident also in the rule in England following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 and the civil war that followed due to conflict with the Puritans and Catholics. The struggle of the Catholics at the hands of new government also suggests the power at the hands of the church machinery. “The new Stuart monarchy clashed with Parliament, Puritans clashed with the Church of England and Catholics continued to be persecuted…

The new regime, and especially the policies of Parliament during this time, moved away from the strict moral codes of Puritanism and an increased repression of non-Anglican Protestants and Catholics. After Charles’ Catholic brother, James, was crowned king in 1685, the country headed straight toward revolution, as James’ opponents enlisted the king’s own son-in-law, the Dutch prince William of Orange, to invade England and take the throne in 1688.” (Surviving History: Could you have survived?: Century of Upheaval, 17th-Century England). The history of England proves role of power at the hands of the church in the continuous struggles that followed.

The Salem Witch trials in 1692 will also be comprehended in this connection. The 17th-century Puritans got refuge in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when they were persecuted in England for their strict religious beliefs. There, they were able to go about their business comparatively free from the colonial government and the city of Salem exhibited the strong bond between the church and the government.

The mass hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch Trials also suggests the result of the overwhelming power at the hands of the church. “In a Puritan town such as Salem, Massachusetts, close ties existed between government and clergy, and it was against the law not to go to church. In 1691, seeking to exercise more control over their New England colonies, the British set up a new colony incorporating Massachusetts with Plymouth, Maine and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The mass hysteria surrounding the Salem Witch Trials began in early 1692, when Massachusetts was awaiting the arrival of a new royal governor and a new charter.” (Surviving History: Could you have survived?: Salem Witch trials, 17th-Century England).

All the aforementioned historical events are significant in an understanding of the role of the church in the system of government. The power at the hands of the church which has been unchecked has been greatly linked to the policies and functioning of the government. Therefore, the role of religion and, to be specific, the church in the government institutions has been clearly related with power.

Similarly, religious reign over education also proves the importance of power in the church. It is relatable here that the church had the supreme power over every way of education. The prime example of the power of the church over the educational process is the fact that the bible was written only in Latin until approx. early 1500’s and the superior authority in every form of learning has been the church.

The role of the church as the main agency of learning and education becomes clear when it is related with the power it enjoyed in the European nations. The superiority of the church as a power of education becomes more apparent in an analysis of the experience of Galileo who was forced to disavow his belief that the earth revolves around the sun in 1633. In the background of the power as enjoyed by the church, Galileo’s inventions were disregarded by the church. In 1610, he came up with a new invention on the night sky with the assistance of his machine, the telescope. The findings of the invention would challenge the Church’s view of the universe and the very word of God.

As he was about to unlock the secrets of the heavens, Galileo was under the threat of mortal danger which led him to a critical moment of trial by the Holy Roman Inquisition. In fact, his findings, based on a study of the heavens through his new telescope, were very clears to him. The study findings made him to propose a heliocentric view of the universe which was unacceptable to the church. He was guilty of going against certain biblical passages and the teachings of Aristotle which regarded the Earth as the center of the universe. He supported the heliocentric theory of Copernicus and explicated that the church was in error.

All these drew him to the power of the Roman Catholic Church and to face the Inquisition to shield him against charges of heresy. Thus, the events in the life of Galileo prove the role of power at the hands of the church. “Facing torture and death, the brilliant scientist is forced to read and sign a confession, disavowing his belief that the Earth revolves around the sun. Found guilty of a ‘grave suspicion of heresy’, Galileo’s sentence is announced to the world – life in prison, with his book banned and ordered to be burned. After ten months in custody, Galileo is allowed to go home to Tuscany, where he will be under strict house arrest for the rest of his life.

There he picks up his early experiments on motion and begins writing again. In 1636, his final book “Discourses on Two New Sciences” lays the foundation for modern physics. His ground-breaking research and discoveries remain the basis of modern science. On October 31, 1992 after 359 years, the Roman Catholic Church admits that it erred in its persecution of Galileo.” (Galileo and the Sinful Spyglass). These historical developments in the life of Galileo illustrate the type of power that the church exhibited. It is also significant, in analysis of the power of the church, to have an overview of how the power of the Church influenced the Crusades in Medieval times.

There are several reasons for the significant power of the church through the crusades. The power of the church was the result of the land it possessed, the money and positions it enjoyed, the support of the kings and kingdoms it had. The Crusades, which were expeditions by the Christian Europe in an attempt to recover the Holy Land, expressed the want of the church for more power. An understanding of the consequences of the crusades clarifies the idea and the main result of the crusades is the increased power of the church. “First among the results of the Crusades is to be counted the great increase they brought about in the power of the Church and of the papacy.

The achievements of the religious wars fell far behind expectations; but the idea became firmly fixed that the pope at the head of armed Christendom had affected the conquest of the Holy Sepulcher.” (History of the Crusades). The significance of the church machinery and the power increased and the common man suffered at the hands of the church. The people of the Europe responded to the call by the Pope for the crusades mainly because they were afraid of the power of the church including physical and moral.

In the current age, the power of the church has diminished considerably and the nations of the world are more led by the political power than the religious power. The religious freedom offered to every citizen of the nation may be realized in this connection. The example of the American educational system which offers the freedom of religious expression illustrates that the power of the church is very much limited. Richard W. Riley points out that the history of America as a nation “reflects the history of the Puritan, the Quaker, the Baptist, the Catholic, the Jew and many others fleeing persecution to find religious freedom in America.

The United States remains the most successful experiment in religious freedom that the world has ever known because the First Amendment uniquely balances freedom of private religious belief and expression with freedom from state-imposed religious expression.” (Archived Information). This is an illustration of the fact that the power of the church has significantly decreased.

An examination of the recent history of the Jalisco also confirms that the role of the church and its power have weakened a great deal. There has been various confrontations between the church and the state. “The new constitution of 1917 placed political and economic restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church in response to claims that the church had abused its power. These restrictions increased friction between the church and the government…” (Jalisco: History of Jalisco).

In the modern materialistic world, the power is mainly enjoyed by the state and the subsequent agencies of the state, rather than the institutions of the church. A very recent comment made by George W Bush also points out the scope for religious freedom and the decrease in the influence of the church in world affairs. “President Bush, in a clear reference to China’s tight control of churches, said Sunday that no country should ‘fear the influence’ of religious freedom. His comments came with added punch as he delivered them after attending church services in the heart of the Chinese capital during Beijing’s Olympic moment.” (On Steps of Beijing Church, Bush Talks of Religious Freedom).

The main theme

The main theme of the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain can be realized as true in an investigation of the historical facts. The power of the church has been instrumental in determining some of the crucial aspects of the world. This paper has been significant in revealing the overwhelming power which the church enjoyed. However, the intention of the paper is not to turn over any religion or religious belief held by any man or woman. This paper has attempted to point out the flaws that await people as a mortal man is given power without a just cause. In fact, power is based on a common belief and fear and the theme of the novel justifies the overall situation of the world.

Works Cited

Archived Information. ED. 2000. Web.

Galileo and the Sinful Spyglass. History. 2008. Web.

History of the Crusades. Religion Facts. 2008. Web.

Jalisco: History of Jalisco. Mexico. History. 2008. Web.

Major Themes. Gradesaver. 2008. Web.

On Steps of Beijing Church, Bush Talks of Religious Freedom. CNN. 2008. Web.

Surviving History: Could you have survived?: Fall of the Empire, Rise of the Church. History. TV Series. 2007.Web.

Surviving History: Could you have survived?: Century of Upheaval, 17th-Century England. History. TV Series. 2007. Web.

Surviving History: Could you have survived?: Salem Witch trials, 17th-Century England. History. TV Series. 2007. Web.

Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Hayes Barton Press, pp 45-46.

This research paper on “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Research Paper sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, October 1). "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/

Reference

IvyPanda. (2021, October 1). "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/

Work Cited

""A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain." IvyPanda, 1 Oct. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/.

1. IvyPanda. ""A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain." October 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. ""A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain." October 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. ""A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain." October 1, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court-by-mark-twain/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) '"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court" by Mark Twain'. 1 October.

Powered by CiteTotal, easy citation creator
More related papers