Monday, March 2, 2015

Saddle Up for Time Travel ~ A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Discussion Questions {High School Literature Curriculum Series}

{If you’re new here, you may want to start with my post Creating a High School Literature Curriculum ~ Post by Post and follow it up with Why Study the Classics of Literature? Welcome!}

So how do you like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court? If you’ve read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, you probably noticed right away that it is quite a different story and style for Mark Twain. I am so impressed with his versatility as a writer! I’ve always loved the stories of Merry Olde England and the Knights of the Round Table, but this story puts a more modern spin on the traditions and practices of the time.

Without further ado, discussion questions ~




  1. We often romanticize the middle ages as an adventurous time of kings and knights and princesses in flowing gowns. But Twain's description of life in the 6th century is rather bleak -- no conveniences such as candles, gas lamps, glass windows, mirrors, coffee, sugar, paper, pen and ink. How do you think you'd get along? What would you miss the most? Our main character gets to work inventing what he needs. What would you invent first?
  2. In the late 1800s when Mark Twain was writing, travel was more difficult, books were not as prevalent, there was no television, and the internet did not exist. Many who might read his books had not much idea of what England looked like. Thus, writers included much more description than they do now. Now, everyone knows what England looks like, and if they don't, they can hop online or turn on their television and discover with a few clicks. What do you think of this trend? Do you like much description like in our story, or do you prefer the bare bones of the plot?
  3. “Unlimited power is the ideal thing when it is in safe hands. The despotism of heaven is the one absolutely perfect government, and earthly despotism would be the absolute perfect earthly government if the conditions were the same; namely the despot the perfectest individual of the human race, and his lease of life perpetual; but as a perishable, perfect man must die and leave his despotism in the hands of an imperfect successor, an earthly despotism is not merely a bad form of government, it is the worst form that is possible.” (Chapter 10) Despotism is defined, in its simplest form, asa system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power.” Twain is saying that organized religion and organized government need to stay in the right hands or it will be corrupted. Do you agree or disagree? How do we make sure it stays in the right hands? Is that possible? {So many possible discussions here. It gives me goose-bumps to think of the opportunity here to discuss what the Bible says about leadership and the state of our church, our country, even our world, today.}
  4. In the sixth century of the story, the knights took on the noble cause of searching for the Holy Grail. What is the Holy Grail? Do you think it exists? Does it matter? Why or why not?
  5. During a large portion of the book, The Boss and King Arthur travel incognito. They meet a family dying of smallpox and made to harvest the Lord of the Manor's crop for free while theirs perishes. Ultimately, the boys escaped the prison, and The Boss was glad for it. What are the similarities to the slavery of blacks that Mark Twain had experience with in his lifetime? What are his conclusions? Is civil disobedience valid in certain circumstances? Which circumstances?
  6. Note the tenderness and passion with which Mark Twain writes of Hello-Central, the child of our main character, especially during the child's illness and his goodbye in France as he is about to return to England. What events or experiences in Mark Twain's life do you think lend credibility and passion to his writing of such passages? Had he experienced something similar?
  7. The final battle, which really isn’t a battle at all, as thousands of knights are electrocuted is brought about by the hero’s technology. Is this a comment on the value, or lack thereof, of technology? How helpful is it, in the end?
  8. What say you about the ending? Were you satisfied? Would you have ended it differently? How? Why? If our hero had stayed in the past, would it have changed history?









P.S. I’m halfway through Anne Frank, and I’ll confess I’m quite in a muddle, thinking of ditching it altogether. Most of it is a fascinating and tearful {for me, at least} study of eight people living in fear and captivity, made only more remarkable by the fact that it’s non-fiction. However, as Anne {ahem} develops, there are a couple of entries that contain thoughts and remembrances that I’m not sure I want my daughter reading, and I’m really not sure I ought to recommend to your sons and daughters. I’m afraid I’m making quite a mess of this literature curriculum, but my conscience must be clear. Have you read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank? What are your thoughts?



~~~~~
Receive new posts from this blog by e-mail.
Let’s connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Or follow this blog with Google Friend Connect on the sidebar.
~~~~~


Photobucket Wise-Woman-Builds Our Simple Country Life AProverbs31Wife.com Missional Women MomsTheWord Homegrown Learners Hip Homeschool Moms


Pin It!

11 comments:

  1. I am not one to want to "edit" literature but I remember reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" for 7th grade German class. I remember that it spoke to me in a way that so few novels could. I knew she was real and that those were her own powerful fears and, in some ways even more sadly, her own dreams. However, I also specifically remember those passages you are speaking about. I remember certain kids getting to them first and that it was quite the whispered scandal during lunch as we tried to make sense of what Anne had written. Looking back, I was not old enough or prepared enough to read those particular passages. I would, as someone who wished I hadn't read them, suggest perhaps editing them out before your children read the book. Praying for you as you discern what and when your children should read certain topics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Amy, for your comment! You are confirming exactly what I've been thinking. There are so many other choices in literature. Now I feel the dunce, changing my plans so much as we go. But I just didn't remember those passages in The Diary. I remembered her teenage angst and the details of the Secret Annex. But wow! Reading it as the mother of teen girls has been eye-opening! Thank you for your honesty. :-)

      Delete
  2. What a dear you are for sharing what you're doing for high school literature. I haven't once thought of you as a dunce for changing your curriculum choices. Homeschooling is all about adapting and choosing what we believe is the right track for our children. We don't all have the same beliefs and we won't all make the same choices, but you and your husband must make what you believe is the best choice for your children. We edit literature all the time at our house and are very open with our children as to why we have done so. BTW, I read The Diary of Anne Frank in school many, many years ago and remember very little.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's my biggest problem, Kari, my poor memory. On the one hand, it makes for a fresh story with every reading. :-) On the other hand, it's difficult to recommend something unless it's fresh in my mind. Thanks for your encouragement!

      Delete
  3. I love having you go through these books. It takes some of the pressure off of me. Don't feel bad about changing plans. We censure books here too. In fact, more than once my daughter has borrowed a book - on a friend's recommendation - and I've either had to say she can't read it or it's so good we buy it and I mark out what I don't want her to read. It's all part of being a parent and helping our children grow up at a pace right for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jennifer. I'm glad you're following along! We're going to skip Anne Frank and go straight to Robert Frost. I'm thinking perhaps we should stay with American Literature for now anyway. Group the choices by country. :-)

      Delete
  4. I am in my second year of homeschooling and have a preschooler and one on the way. I was very curious about what parents of older children would respond to this conversation. I am so very relieved to see that all of you have said that you edit/censure what your children are reading! I was a public school student and feel, looking back, that I learned many lessons far too young and my husband and I really do not want the same for our children. Knowing others share our goals is such a comfort. Thank you all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was exactly my experience, Amy -- learning lessons far too young. I'm preparing a post about what our guidelines are for what our children read. Not sure when I'll get it posted, but I'm praying over it, that it will be a help and a blessing.

      Delete
  5. I don't have children old enough to be reading this, but I have read this book recently enough to remember the passages to which you refer. I think it's something I would approach with prayer and careful consideration. For my own children, I'd consider whether they are mature enough that reading this could be a springboard into a valuable discussion for us, or whether it would be a case of them learning a lesson too early. And I think if I were discussing the book with other homeschooling parents, I'd want to make sure they were aware of what mature/questionable material they might be getting into.

    I do think that the Diary of Anne Frank is an important book and I will probably want to teach it in our home sometime. However, there is some material in there that I wouldn't want my children learning about while they're still too young to handle it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maturity seems to be the deciding factor, doesn't it? And though I may believe my daughter is mature enough (hypothetically speaking!), I don't know about the daughters (or sons!) of my readers. I can't lead a study through something I'm not comfortable in recommending. Thanks for your input and encouragement! :-)

      Delete
  6. I believe I read the Diary of Anne Frank around 12-13, though I could be mistaken. I know the first time I read it was quite a few years ago. I agree, maturity makes all the difference, and if you don't read it now, I recommend reading it in a year or two! :~)

    ReplyDelete

I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)