Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court as a Dystopian Work

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Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court as a Dystopian Work

For years, Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" has been primarily viewed as a work of simple satire. Twain, desiring to poke fun at a group of America's cultural critics, chief among them Matthew Arnold, who claimed that cultural life in the U.S. treaded on shallow soil, takes aim at the venerated institutions of Britain. The author attempts to show that his country's lack of romanticized social structures, meaning an absence of royalty, the Catholic church, and long-dead knights and princesses, was far from a cultural weakness. Twain explodes the myth around idealized chivalric society and proves it to be no match for the Nineteenth
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Here, as in much of Tom Sawyer and most of Huckleberry Finn, he is a great novelist" (DeVoto, 274).

The work devolves from its first chapters, however, and becomes something very different by the end of the novel. A Connecticut Yankee's climactic, blood-letting ending, in particular, stands out as amateurish bungling by the author. Twain, in a burst of what seems, upon initial investigation, a beginning writer's attempt to resolve a novel that has spiraled out of his control, kills off his antagonists and finally his protagonist as well. It seems that Twain throws his hands up in frustration and ends the action in an orgy of electrocutions and Gatling gun fire. ". . . the book is chaos. Twain's mind was not able to stay within[satire's] limits. His imaginative ferment demanded gigantic expression," (DeVoto, 278). An alternate reading of the conclusion, however, allows the reader to take a vastly different critical angle on the book.

When viewed through the lens of anti-utopian or dystopian analogy, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court's" finale becomes a grave prediction of man's industrialized future. Where Aldous Huxley augured man's enslavement to technology, its intellectual and critical emasculation in Brave New World, Twain's work can be construed to encapsulate the pending destruction of society's innocence and idealism by
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