Let's Read: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Ch.18)

It is time for criminal justice! Medieval style! …wait, medieval style criminal justice as articulated through Victorian sensibilities. Yeah.

                So, the basis of this chapter is Protag-man diving down into Morgan Le Fay’s dungeons and questioning the prisoners. Turns out that Morgan has quite the collection of rare prisoners. She got em’ for cheap, too! Naturally, then, Protag-man isn’t taking too kindly to their acquisition.

                Oh, and there is some musing on religion and how not all priests are bad. #NotAllPriests , #PriestLivesMatter

“We must have a religion—it goes without saying—but my idea is, to have it cut up into forty free sects, so that they will police each other, as had been the case of the United States in my time” (124).

                It is amusing how protag-man has such a specific articulation of how religion operates. He firmly believes that a single, centralized church is a political problem that ultimately leads to tyranny, which is fairly standard of a belief in certain social circles, but his idea on how to remedy it is a bit odd and can be summed up as Freedom of Religion. AS such, it is a bit weird that he sees forty specific sects of Christianity. Last I checked, there was not that many sects (not unless you count, like, sub-denominations of sects or caucuses).

Moving on, though, Protag-man degrades the executioner. He felt that his position was unnecessary and had him instead lead a musical troop. “He begged hard, and said that he couldn’t play—a plausible excuse, but too thin; there wasn’t a musician in the country that could”. Seems like a hard pill to swallow, so I feel for the guy, especially since everyone apparently sucks at being talented.

                After this point, there is a long commentary on Morgan’s morality and her “paying” for the lad she killed earlier; it is a tract on the rights on monarchs and how what is legally and morally right for them in their time does not make it right in the greater sense of the world, that is, to God. It is mildly interesting but it could also be summed up as anthropological tourism. In any case, I agree that Morgan is a swine but as a question explored in the book, this issue has been brought up many times before: this is an elaborate metaphor for American colonialism and neo-colonialism.

                This colonialist attitude is brought up again through Protag-man’s musing on his conscience.

“I have noticed it a thousand times. And you could dissolve an anvil with acids, when you couldn’t stand it any longer; but there isn’t any way you could work off a conscience—at least so it will stay worked off; not that I know of, anyway” (127).

Essentially, this is the moral equivalent of White Man’s Burden. Thankfully, Protag-man is projecting onto fellow Whites, which makes it less disagreeable, but still: morally he speaks on how he must follow his conscience and do the right thing because he is from the FUTURE and has a responsibility using his innate betterness for the better. It is like him saying, “Alas, because I am a morally superior human, it is my job to uplift you primitive savages. My burden, truly”.

                His superior conscience, at any rate, leads him to probe Morgan’s dungeons further. In sum, he finds a great deal of prisoners there for trivial reasons. So, no different than today, in other words. Spoiler alert: he releases the prisoners, save on a former lord who out of spite, destroyed a well, and makes good on his moral superiority. From this jail freeing, he finds a new recruit for his factory, someone who maintains that had the entire nation been stripped, one couldn’t tell the high from the low. So, a classical liberal.

                Other than discovering that Morgan goes through complex psycho-sadistic games with her prisoners to increase their misery, we also, unsurprisingly, find that Morgan’s linguistic narcissism prevents her from admitting not knowing a word. Amusingly, she tries to take a photograph with an axe.