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The Prince and the Pauper

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Lee Ogilvie

on 2 May 2013

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Transcript of The Prince and the Pauper

The Story Twain's 1881 novel The Prince and The Pauper was his first attempt at historical fiction, recounting the tale of Tom Canty and Edward VI, the Prince of Wales switching lives. The story becomes a whimsically sarcastic critique of class structure and explores the mythical aphorism of the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence. Tom Canty The Pauper "A boy was born to a poor family of the name of Canty, who did not want him" Tom Canty lives in Offal Court, "a foul little pocket" of London. He is repeatedly beaten every day by his father and grandmother and his only form of solace is a mental retreat to the stories he is told by Father Andrew of mythical beasts and courtly life. Canty is representative of the peasantry and fantasizes about one day encountering royalty, not necessarily endeavoring to become royalty. His ability to read, write, and comprehend English and Latin (both learned from Father Andrew as well) compensate for his plebeian characteristics, defining him as more than just a peasant, and evoking sympathy from the audience. Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales "On the same day another English child was born to a rich family of the name of Tudor, who did want him. All England wanted him too. England had so longed for him, and hoped for him, and prayed God for him, that, now that he was really come, the people went nearly mad for joy." The Prince Edward VI is portrayed as an understanding, albeit naive, prince who longs to dismiss his aristocratic responsibilities and live like a normal child. He does not fully understand the suffering and the poor living conditions that the peasantry endure, thus without this knowledge, he instigates the switch without reproach. The Prince and the Pauper A novel by Mark Twain A presentation by Lee Ogilvie Historical Context As previously mentioned, this novel was Twain's first effort to produce effective historical fiction. The result for us as a modern audience is a work of historical fiction through an older lens. The Prince and the Pauper serves as documentation of the perception of Tudor England in the 1880s, as opposed to the new discoveries and theories about that particular history that have occurred in the past hundred years. Twain was fascinated by history and language, and this particular work allowed him to explore his adoration of both with his own flair and humor. Keeping Up Appearances The uncanny resemblance that Tom and the Prince share establishes one theme of the societal fixation on appearance. With a quick exchange of wardrobe, the class of the two boys immediately changes, signifying that their personal appearance translates who they are. This becomes even more evident in that nobody notices until the end of the story that the two boys look alike, indicating that they only look at their costuming. Tom's sisters Bet and Nan fall into this category of appearances as well. Even though they have ample opportunities to better their knowledge by learning from Father Andrew, they refuse for "they were afraid of the jeers of their friends." Their "profound ignorance" in actual attainable knowledge and any concept of self-worth or betterment perpetuates their lowly position in society. They are willing to sacrifice any beneficial changes for fear of ridicule and ostracization, signifying that the appearance of self-improvement is worthy of mockery. THEMES The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Pasture The shared common misconceptions that Tom and Edward have about each other's lives adhere to the old proverb. Tom wishes he could live like a prince and experience the life of nobility while Edward wants to escape from it. Both do not fully comprehend the severity of the swap initially, as Tom does not know Greek or that the king is dying, nor has Edward ever been struck by a blow as Tom has many times. As the Prince and the Pauper is a children's story, it has an instructional message along with its other themes. OR Be Careful What You Wish For Class Clash The relationship between the lower class and nobility is so distanced that each side can hardly conceptualize realistic aspects of the other. In Tom Canty's case, his preconceived notions of the ruling class did not extend into having a plethora of servants and no longer needing to be self-sufficient. " My Lord d'Arcy, First Groom of the Chamber, was there, to do goodness knows what; but there he was--let that suffice," connoting that one need not serve a specific purpose,duty, or talent to be one with aristocracy; one only needs to simply be present. The presence of these seemingly purposeless people becomes a flagrant display of wealth,indicting that the royal family has enough (perhaps ill-gotten) money that they do not bother making people actually work.
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