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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The novel is framed by the first and last chapters, which take place in nineteenth century England. The rest set in sixth century Camelot. The bulk of the novel is linear in fashion, with several increasingly climactic episodes and a final climax. The frame provides the introduction and the falling action.
THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS
The dominant theme of the novel is the Science-Superstition confrontation. Science and Superstition clash at different stages in the novel. Sometimes Science takes over and sometimes Superstition overpowers the minds of the people. Hank Morgan depends both on Science and Superstition to establish his identity in Camelot.
England of the sixth-century is clouded with superstition and false beliefs because of the ignorance of the people. When Hank Morgan enters the scene, he is looked at with suspicion and considered evil. Feeling helpless in the dungeon, Morgan makes an attempt to save himself by relying on a scientific fact and the superstitious beliefs of the people. Being aware that the solar eclipse is to occur a few days later, he proclaims himself a magician who can create calamities. He fools the superstitious people by pretending to cover their land with darkness and later, at the King's request, replaces the darkness with light. Morgan saves himself by making use of his knowledge of science and taking advantage of the superstition of the people. Later, he blows up the tower of Merlin following the same principle.
At the Valley of Holiness, Morgan once again makes use of his scientific knowledge to block the leak in the well but projects it as a miracle to win the favor of the superstitious people. When he gets information about the King's visit to the Valley by means of the telephone, he relates it as a prediction to the illiterate monks.
The Boss succeeds in transforming the backward Camelot into a modern city because of his scientific knowledge, common sense, and skill for inventing. He acquires power, position, and wealth because he succeeds in using Science to conquer Superstition. However, he hurts the sentiments of the Orthodox Church and conservative people in the process. The church issues an Interdict and the superstitious people turn against him. In the war between the knights and the minuscule army of the Boss, it is Science that defeats superstition. Morgan, Clarence and their fifty-two soldiers vanquish Twenty-five thousand knights through their scientific devices of torpedoes, dynamos, Gattling guns and electrical wires.
In this way, science seems to defeat superstition. However, in the final moments, Merline casts a spell against which The Boss's science has no power. He loses Camelot, his wife, his daughter, and all his greatness. Superstition overpowers science, and he is sent back from whence he came.
IRONY IN THE NOVEL - STYLE
Mark Twain shows himself as a master of irony when he exposes the social evils of the times and the hypocrisy of the characters humorously. The novel starts on a note of irony. Hank Morgan, the modern American finds himself in the ancient court of King Arthur. At the court, Morgan condemns the knights for telling lies. However, when he is put inside the dungeon, he also tells a lie to escape bondage. He calls himself a magician who can create a calamity and darken the world if he must. Morgan, the rationalist, projects himself as a man dabbling in black magic and the supernatural. He reveals the scientific phenomenon of the solar eclipse as a devastating calamity darkening Camelot. People hold him in awe and the King accepts him as a minister in his court. So by lying and fooling the people, he earns their favor. Later, he destroys the tower of Merlin through explosives and lighted wires, to prove his credibility. Twain creates an ironic situation not only out of the ignorance and superstition of the people, but also out of the inconsistency in the behavior of Morgan.
Morgan condemns royalty for thinking themselves superior to their subjects, yet he himself boasts and brags about his powers and his position. Over and over again, he uses his ordinary knowledge from the nineteenth century to make the people think he has extraordinary powers and he never confesses the truth. The ultimate irony is that when it is all over, and he is sent back to the nineteenth century, he realizes the beauty in Camelot's purity and longs to return. He has been given back his place in the technologically and industrially advanced nineteenth century, but all he wants is Camelot.