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Free Study Guide for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CHAPTER 20 "THE OGRE'S CASTLE"

Summary

After they travel ten miles, they meet another knight advertising for toothpaste and mouthwash (trained in this endeavor by The Boss). The advertising knight is upset because he has been the butt of a joke. Another knight sent him across the country to sell his wares to five people, all of whom were just released from Le Fay's prison. As a result, all are too poor to indulge in the much-touted toothpaste, and have no teeth.

A little while later, they near a pigsty which Sandy calls an Ogre's castle. The Boss realizes she knows no better, so he goes along with her, even declaring he will rescue the "princesses". He buys the pigs at a high cost and takes them away from the pigsty. It is dark when they reach another castle. All the pigs are housed and taken care of.

Notes

This chapter highlights Mark Twain's masterly irony and delightful humor. The picture of the knight with the advertisement board, trying to sell wares to toothless prisoners, is laughter provoking. No less humorous are the scenes where Sandy becomes emotional looking at the pigs and refers to them as princesses, or the way the Boss rescues the pigs from the pigsty and leads them to another castle.


Mark Twain also makes an ironic comment on the defeatist attitude of the prisoners. An old prisoner is reunited with the members of his family after years of imprisonment but he is uncomplaining because he considers it his fate and an act of God. The Boss is angered by their slavish attitude and condemns their passive acceptance of life.

CHAPTER 21 "THE PILGRIMS"

Summary

After the pigs are comfortably placed in an empty house, The Boss and Sandy continue their journey. On the way, they meet a group of pilgrims who remind the narrator of the pilgrims of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The pilgrims belong to different classes and castes and make merry as they proceed on their journey. Sandy informs the Boss that the pilgrims are on their way to the Valley of Holiness, well known for its Holy Water. Later in the day, they meet a different group of pilgrims who look sorrowful and are chained. They are slaves driven by slave drivers who are merciless and cruel. One young woman is beaten for falling down.

A short while later, she is sold to a lord much to the distress of her husband and child. The Boss wants to intervene but curbs his instinct, realizing he has not earned any authority here.

At nightfall they reach an inn to stretch their limbs. In the morning, the Boss meets another salesman-knight who talks about the drying up of water in the Holy Valley. He carries a message from the monks to the Boss inviting him there to help restore the water supply. They tell him Merlin is already at the Valley trying to work miracles. The Boss sends a note to Clarence, asking for equipment and assistance at the Valley.

Notes

Mark Twain is inspired by Chaucer to write about the group of merry pilgrims who are on their way to the Valley of Holiness. The group comprises of different kinds of people belonging to different sections of society. All of them travel together and make merry. In the medieval age, a pilgrimage was the only means to bring the high and the low together.

In the beginning of the chapter, Twain brings out a contrast between the medieval period and the modern age. Sandy feels at home, entertaining and pampering the pigs in the house of a stranger. When the Boss points out the impropriety of entering a house without permission, staying in it and availing of its facilities, Sandy states that it is an honor for anyone to entertain royal guests. Her attitude astounds the Boss because he belongs to an age where formality, decorum, and etiquette are given utmost importance.

The Boss projects himself as a prudish Victorian who feels embarrassed to hear lewd jokes from the priest. Only later, after being in the company of Sandy, he understands the difference in attitude between the people of an ancient age and the people of a modern period.

The slave/pilgrims who look dejected resemble the hordes of slaves who were sailing on a ship to America in Stevenson's Kidnapped. The ruthless slave-leader tortures them and separates them mercilessly from their families' inn order to sell them to wealthy lords. Through his remarkable descriptive ability, Mark Twain evokes a scene of misery and cruelty when he shows the young woman punished by her tormentor.

The Boss is once again recalled to work his magical powers in a contest against Merlin, but this time it is for a good cause as well as for superiority. He is required at the Valley to restart the flow of water in the well, a task that he is scientifically competent to perform.

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