Let's Read: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Ch.17)

After Morgan waxes eloquently as an apology, she presents herself very lowkey as a second-fiddle to protag-man. It is typical of the narrative at this point to make these kinds of moves so I am not surprised yet another 180 have transpired. Regardless, The Boss makes due with gaining power over a feared witch-queen. He observes, which is what anyone would do in his position.

                “I will say this much for the nobility: that, tyrannical, murderous, rapacious, and morally rotten as they were, they were deeply and enthusiastically religious” (114).

                Cool. Twain is clearly honing-in on how the bourgeoisie in contemporary society uses religion as a tool to mask their violence; this is a thread that he continues for some time, describing several stories, of people wantonly killing another person without a thought and then going to pray. It highlights the lackadaisical contradiction of Christian society where so many people can proport to serve God yet be so violent at the same time.

                After this, there is an overly protracted dinner scene. Here, protag-man describes the elaborate feast and the large numbers of people involved. Morgan hangs some people then gets permission from protag-man to hang some more; just a power display, really. It is interesting, though, that a character with such potential as Morgan gets wasted; her involvement in the story has only just begun and yet I am already bored of her; since she only does irrational acts to shock people, her role is that of evil murder mistresses. Literally nothing has happened to the contrary, yet, to convey anything else about her personage.

                “Then I saw that she was right and gave her permission to hang the whole band” (117).

                So… I understand protag-man, I really do: he doesn’t actually have any special powers. He is getting by through street smarts and his understanding of history. If he is found out, he will be killed. So, the stakes are kinda high and he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the people he is fooling, least he have to provide concrete proof of his magic.

                And yet… I find something off about him just waving off an entire band. If previous moments haven’t led the reader to dislike protag-man then this moment should solidify it; sure, his elitism before now shown well but it is safe to say its evolved into an insufferable level. Casually executing several performers just to better puff up your alter ego is a garish display of ultra-individualism. It’s moments like these that the protagonist seems like someone from an Ayn Rand novel.

                Regardless, he does do something good to help make up for his pro-capital punishment: he frees a prisoner.

                While walking with Morgan in the castle, they happen upon an inmate which Morgan was torturing to confess to a crime. Protag-man believes the man was set-up but the man won’t tell his side of the story and whether he killed a deer. Long story short, though, the man did in fact kill the deer and wouldn’t confess to it because then Morgan could confiscate all his land. So, he ended up freeing someone who was in fact guilty.

                I get the feeling that this chapter was trying to comment on the iffy stance of justice in the medieval world, how it was complicated by profit, just like in the real world, but it doesn’t succeed too well in making that point. I guess it is because it doesn’t go all the way. It tries to make a comparison but only makes vague inroads. If Twain wanted to include social commentary disguised as an Arthurian moment, then it should have been larger. Maybe in future chapters this is built on, but this moment with the petty-criminal just isn’t compelling, much like this chapter in general.