In this classic satiric novel, published in 1889, Hank Morgan, a supervisor in a Connecticut gun factory, falls unconscious after being whacked on the head. When he wakes up he finds himself in Britain in 528 — where he is immediately captured, hauled back to Camelot to be exhibited before the knights of King Arthur's Round Table, and sentenced to death. Things are not looking good.
But Hank is a quick-witted and enterprising fellow, and in the process of saving his life he turns himself into a celebrity of the highest magnitude. His Yankee ingenuity and knowledge of the world beyond the Dark Ages are regarded as the most powerful sorcery — winning him a position of prime minister as well as the eternal enmity of a jealous Merlin. In an effort to bring democratic principles and mechanical knowledge to the kingdom, Hank introduces newspapers, telephones, bicycles, and other modern conveniences to the Britain of the Dark Ages. But when he tries to improve the lot of the common people, chaos and war result, giving a bittersweet tone to this comic masterpiece by one of America's greatest storytellers.
Let's set the scene...
Lane has just discovered that her parents are shipping her off to Korea for the summer, with no return date.
Lane: Now this is that name of that guy at the American Consulate, and several important Korean phrases written out phonetically, you know, 'Help', 'Have you seen this girl,' 'Comes from money', et cetera.
Rory: Still no return date info from the parents?
Lane: Nope, but they did buy me a winter coat.
Rory: When are you going?
Lane: Right after your mom's engagement par...
Lane: Do you think she heard me?
Rory: I don't think so. No, she'd be in here grilling us for details if she had.
Lane: She wouldn't have pretended not to have heard so she wouldn't kill the surprise?
Rory: And risk clashing with the decor?
Lane: Right. Okay, I gotta go.
Rory: Hey, Henry?
Lane: Called him.
Lane: He likes me. He's perfect. I'll never see him again. You'll read about it in my novel, A Connecticut Yankee in Pusan. [leaves]
This might be my favorite Twain to date. The humor and insight he used to comment on the problems industrialism brings with it made the message both relatable and interesting. I found myself laughing out loud at Hank Morgan's view of the world into which he had accidentally stepped. Mark Twain wrote this book with an irreverancy and self-deprecation that ensured the message landed exactly where it was directed.
I believe Twain was trying to start a conversation about the hubris with which other countries believe they know what is best for nations they think to be ignorant and shortsighted. All societies have their own issues, but being under the assumption that your issues are somehow morally superior to those experienced by other societies is a dangerous way of thinking. In Morgan's case, his search for absolute power ended in destroying an entire monarchy that would have effectively ruled the land for centuries. He thought Camelot was filled with a bunch of uneducated rubes that needed his knowledge desperately, not recognizing what kind of backlash can occur by introducing advanced weapons technology to a time that's not quite ready for it.
Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme... Hank Morgan and The King!
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
Luke Danes... America's third favorite curmudgeon (next to Mark Twain... and Walter Matthau).