Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Connecticut Yankee, Bejabbers, Part 2

It was a weird book.  A book with a tremendous amount of humor in it, but also a book full of torture, unspeakable brutalities and random death.  And an ending which has our protagonist & his small army surrounded & imprisoned by the decaying corpses of 25,000 knights is an ending that is something less than happy. 

But what the heck did it mean?

A factory supervisor in 19th Hartford Connecticut gets hit on the head and wakes up in 6th century England, is captured by a knight and marched off to Camelot where he is sentenced to death.   He saves himself because he knew the exact date and time of a total eclipse of the sun, and made everyone think he had magical powers and caused it.  This is an amazing thing, first because he knew the date, and second because he was able to account for the date differences caused due to the use of the Gregorian Calendar in the 19th century, and a non-Gregorian calendar in the 6th century (Julian?).  When he Gregorian calendar was established in the 17th century, they basically skipped ahead 2 weeks in order to get human time back in sync with the seasons.  1,100 years earlier, how far out of sync was human time with the seasons?  I don't know, but probably not quite two weeks.  Our protagonist knew that somehow, and figured it out.

But I'm being picky here.

What did the book mean?

He became powerful, and set about slowly but surely "civilizing" 6th century England.  By civilizing, I mean turning it into 19th century New England.   He managed to create a patent office, newspapers,  electricity, trains, a telephone system, bicycles, a public school system (in the sense of USA public schools) and advertising.  His goal was to dismantle the monarchy, nobility, knight-errantry, and the established state church.   In the end the civilization he created was destroyed, along with most of the knights, due to the Arthur/Guinevere/Sir Lancelot triangle, and greatly exacerbated by an interdict from Rome.   Our protagonist is surrounded by mouldering corpses, and Merlin, who's reputation was destroyed,  gets the last laugh, by putting a spell on our hero causing him to sleep for the next 13 centuries.  

So, in a word, he failed, and failed miserably.   Failed totally.

Maybe it means you shouldn't try to impose modern technology on a primitive society.   But that is pretty simplistic.  

It was interesting to read.  A paradox of a book.  Very satirical, in it's own way.  Very funny, very sad.

Maybe it's just the work of a moody author.

I'm not sure what I'll read next.

3 comments:

Patti Anne said...

That is a brilliant summation of a book I struggle with quite a lot. I couldn't slog through the last chapters, as it got too black and moody. Thanks for the synopsis!

A Valdese Blogger said...

PA: will it's a summation. Not sure I'd lable it brilliant.

A Valdese Blogger said...

Label. Webster prefers label.