Chris's Reviews > The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
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Dec 04, 13

Read in January, 2007

Upon moving to Glenview, I had no reliable bookstore I was aware of, save the bigass Barnes & Nobles near the train station by work. Such a shop near my train station isn’t quite helpful, as the maximum I have at such a locale is about 6 minutes, and it’s a 3 minute walk from the station. Upon finding Books-A-Million, I was quite content; in what I believe to be my first visit there, I had a hankering (for some unknown reason) to get a copy of the much-cited Mark Twain classic “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”. I walked out with a book of his short stories and was duly pleased.

It was on one of these trips to that I came across The Prince and The Pauper, and decided I’d give that sh-t a try someday in the remote future.

And lo, that time hath come, and sadly, I wasn’t all that thrilled with this work. It’s fairly enjoyable, I’ll give it that, but much like Huck Finn and the usual required reading of Mr. Clemens, this just didn’t quite do it for me; in my estimation, the guy should have stuck to short stories, which are almost universally fricking sweet.

This book has its ups and downs; while the saga of the identity crisis between Poor Tom Canty (of Led Zeppelin fame) and the noble Prince Edward is rich with Twain’s humor, the conversational Middle English gets annoying, and unless you love English history or geography (intimately) some of this is convoluted. Also, had this been a shorter book (not that it’s an exceedingly long volume by any means) it probably would have been better, as the adventures might be funny at times, some of the mishaps which take place aren’t up to the caliber of others, resulting in down time, which is usually filled with repetitive contemplations by the minor characters to the maladies which they presume have afflicted Prince or Pauper. The switch of persona between the two characters happens early in the story, by page 14, and the dual cover-ups of this event by both the mind-numbingly foolish royal troupe and the beggardly and bedraggled poor who succumb to their discontent and exist as villainous brutes takes an exceeding amount of time, as both the false Prince Tom Canty and the fallen, unrecognized urchin that is the disgraced Prince Edward are deemed by the medical masterminds of the time as suffering an affliction of the mind resulting in the loss of their socially accepted identities to assume one of the furthest possible aspect in these days of Olde London. The beggar-turned-Prince, who I thought the tale would focus about, and would be a truly spectacular character of moral integrity, actually is outshone by the bravado and unshakable persistence of the downtrodden former heir.

At that point the story plods along rather endlessly, and while there certainly are some moments of worthy comedy, a fifty page abridgement could be made. The result of that would be a great novelette worthy of the Twain name, as it stands, I don’t see the need for the repetition of lengthy dialogs in a goofy manner of speech, which on both sides of the tale form the foundation of the rest of the world’s beliefs concerning this unspoken but suspected act of governmental subterfuge. Events great and small are covered on Edward’s path to regain the mighty crown which he has so far been unrighteously and unceremoniously denied since the death of King Henry.

At the end of the day you don’t really get what you paid for, as far as the time invested in reading the tale went. I also must admit to a distraction whilst reading this parable, I cold not stop thinking that Twain also has a novel called A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and kept thinking that this kind of made Twain the first that I am aware of in a respected line of alternate history sensationalists. That kind of freaked me the hell out.
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Lady You wrote: "The beggar-turned-Prince, who I thought the tale would focus about, and would be a truly spectacular character of moral integrity, actually is outshone by the bravado and unshakable persistence of the downtrodden former heir."

I couldn't put my finger on why The Prince and the Pauper lacked a certain something, and then I read that sentence. While I enjoyed the book thoroughly, the trifecta of Tom's waffling and self-aggrandizement, Edward's refusal to withdraw his head from his arse,
and the book's overall ending - in which Tom, a worthy king despite his faults, was supplanted by Edward, who was neither a better nor a worse king - was severely disappointing.


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