Tuesday, October 05, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 56

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
by Mark Twain

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"You see, my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its office-holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags — that is a loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it. I was from Connecticut, whose Constitution declares "that all political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit; and that they have — at all times — an undeniable and indefeasible right to alter their form of government in such a manner as they may think expedient."

That rather lengthy quote comes from Mark Twain's novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and for me, that quote sums up the themes of the novel in a nutshell.

That quote also happens to be one of the reasons this is my favorite of Twain's work.

Yes, I love his writings about Huck and Tom, and even his travel literature about going out West and to Hawaii and even overseas. But it's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court that always draws me back in.

There's a lot to like in this novel. It has Twain's famous humor. It also has speculative fiction elements (it's a time travel story, after all, unless you consider the tale a dream ... and if you do, there's evidence in the story itself that it all wasn't a dream), which I enjoy. And at its heart it has a lot to say about America and the nation's ideals.

I like the message Twain is preaching in the quote above. I do consider the "people" more important than the institutions of government. Does that make me a left wing nutcase? A right wing nutcase? A libertarian? I personally don't subscribe to any particular political or social train of thought, being more of a moderate who believes in judging each circumstance individually instead of creating sweeping decisions and judgments that will effect everyone. I lean right on some things and left on others. I don't believe in demagogues, who seem to have taken over the political processes and the national media in this country (and if you're one of those who says "but my guy isn't a demagogue" ... well, yeah, he or she probably is ... otherwise we shouldn't even have the word "demagogue" in the dictionary).

Okay. That's my little socio-political rant for the day.

Twain said it first. So don't blame me.

Up next: Great Expectations


David Barron said...

I cannot underestimate the extent to which Mark Twain influenced me, and to discount Connecticut Yankee would thus be dishonest. Nonetheless: I hate the ending, however necessary it presumably must have been.

Charles Gramlich said...

I thought it was kind of charming. I don't often think of it as fantasy, though, although it has those trappings. It really seemed more like satire to me.

Ty Johnston said...

David, it seems to not be a favorite book of many Twain fans. That's somewhat understandable because the last part of the book tends to be a downer, leaning towards Twain's darker writing phase later in his life.

Most literary scholars tend to focus on the satire of chivalry throughout the novel, but I've always found it just as relevant today, at least as relevant as ... oh, say someone like Jon Stewart.

Ty Johnston said...

Charles, sorry, we were cross posting. Yes, the novel's definitely satire. It just happens to have some trappings related to speculative fiction.