First published in 1889
, Mark Twain
's novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
follows the adventures of Yankee machinist Hank Morgan
, who awakens in Arthurian England following "misunderstanding conducted with crowbars" and uses Yankee ingenuity to remake Camelot
in his own Yankee industrialist image.
The novel probably began to take shape in Twain's mind after his friend George Washington Cable bought him a copy of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur in 1884, but according to Twain's notebook, the direct impetus for the story came from a dream he had one night of being a knight in King Arthur's court and the many inconveniences this presented to a modern man.
The novel is a spirited sendup of the Arthurian legends, and a derisive commentary on the evils of feudalism, but it is at least as much a satire of the comtemporary American values of Twain's day. Indeed, A Connecticut Yankee is one of Twain's most complex novels, with its odd but masterful blend of child-like humor and weighty social commentary and the dark ending which revealed Twain's disillusionment with the ability of technology and industry to solve the fundamental problems of the world, and hinted at a growing melancholy that was taking hold of Twain's life as a litany of failed business ventures and personal tragedies began to take their toll.
It is ironic then, that as novels long thought of as children's books such as Huckleberry Finn increasingly receive serious literary consideration, A Connecticut Yankee, clearly recognized as satire in Twain's own day, is nowadays the novel perhaps most read by children and least read by adults.