Human voices

Language and conscience in Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many critics writing on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee claim that the novel eludes easy interpretation because of its complex ironic twists, its juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy, and its penchant for pointing the sword of satire both at the pre-industrial Arthurian world and at Hank's own industrialized America. This confusion has led some critics to throw up their hands and write off the novel as one of Twain's artistic "failures." However, exploring the novel's use of language and the role of story-telling, in particular, may shed light on its seeming ambiguity. A Connecticut Yankee explores the human capacity for both malice and mercy through the artifice and art of story-telling. From the first pages, the novel draws attention to the power of language to perpetrate violence and to mask it. This paper examines the novel's linguistic and narrative devices, especially the novel's juxtapositions of external differences-a Yankee in medieval England, different dialects, machinery in a pre-industrial age, and so forth-in order to argue that this time-travel tale ultimately reveals more crushing similarities than differences. The novel does not, then, present a linear story-line but rather uses narrative form to explore the overarching theme of human nature, which, regardless of time or of the structure of story, is consistent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-84
Number of pages20
JournalCanadian Review of American Studies
Volume39
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

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conscience
language
critic
write-off
narrative
satire
Language
Novel
King Arthur
dialect
travel
art
violence
Storytelling
Juxtaposition
linguistics
interpretation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory

Cite this

Human voices : Language and conscience in Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. / Cooper, Lydia R.

In: Canadian Review of American Studies, Vol. 39, No. 1, 01.01.2009, p. 65-84.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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