For Young People of All Ages
Dedicated to Those Good-Mannered and Agreeable Children, Susie and Sarah Clemens, This Book Is Affectionately Dedicated by Their Father
I will set down a tale as it was told to me by one who had it of his father, which latter had it of HIS father, this last having in like manner had it of HIS father—and so on, back and still back, three hundred years and more, the fathers transmitting it to the sons and so preserving it. It may be history, it may be only a legend, a tradition. It may have happened, it may not have happened: but it COULD have happened. It may be that the wise and the learned believed it in the old days; it may be that only the unlearned and the simple loved it and credited it.
The Prince and the Pauper was Mark Twain’s first attempt at historical fiction. Supposedly, part of what compelled him to write it was his new marriage. His wife was encouraging him to write more “high-brow” literature. One wonders why a person would take the advice to change a formula that has been successful.
The Prince and the Pauper is well written and a charming story that has many appealing themes. Yet, it was not nearly as well known or as well read as Twain’s famous novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Despite what Twain’s wife thought, it possibly was rejected by Twain’s readers because it wasn’t American and not about the entertaining white trash that lived in river towns.
Some critics believe that the story reflected Twain’s own duality. His beginnings had started out humble, and he had moved up in the world with his writing success. He seemed constantly plagued by fears that people would discover that he was a fraud and ridicule his origins. He often questioned whether he was a fraud.
The Prince and the Pauper is a Cinderella story. It is both a rags-to-riches and a riches-to-rags story since it is told by two perspectives, the beggar who becomes a prince and the prince who becomes a beggar after they change places. Both boys struggle in their new roles. Tom Canty, the beggar child who finds himself a prince, worries about making a fool of himself and at first chafes at the restrictions his luxurious life imposes. Yet, in time, he begins to enjoy it…particularly when he finds himself empowered to change harsh laws. He fears acknowledging his family and friends because he doesn’t want to lose his position, and yet he is guilt-ridden when he denies knowing his mother.
Prince Edward VI, who originally switches places with the beggar boy he rescued to enjoy a few hours of freedom, doesn’t enjoy the new life imposed upon him. Yet, through all the difficulties he endures, he sees the world from a different viewpoint that he never would have had the opportunity to see. He witnesses the injustices of the king’s laws firsthand. He sees the suffering of the people he will one day rule, and also experiences the difficulties first-hand himself. He learns lessons to be a better ruler from his experience. The book teaches several spiritual lessons: how perception often determines our reality, that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and compassion for your fellow man.
Even those who are ignorant of history will be able to appreciate the time period The Prince and the Pauper is set in. Henry VIII and his daughter Bloody Mary are famous and well-known. The Tudors were a brief but exciting period in English history, even without the nudity so prevalent in the popular television series that recently told their story. The war about which religion would guide England is not really touched upon in The Prince and the Pauper, though there is a heart-wrenching scene where two Baptist women are burned at the stake. Oddly enough, though, a religious theme is hinted at—making one wonder if Twain’s marriage had more than one influence. In the story, a child lectures his elders about lessons in compassion. He sleeps in a manger. He has a mock coronation and is ridiculed. He is denied by his friends. Sound familiar?
Though this story did not take place in America, the social and political commentary are timeless. Though times may be a little less barbaric than they were during Henry VIII’s rule, many social problems continue to plague humanity even up to these times. Poverty, child abuse, domestic abuse, injustice, out-of-touch government officials, corruption, prejudice, intolerance…these are problems that still exist. Though it may be depressing to think not much has changed in several hundred years, it is one of the reasons why classic literature still speaks to us. It would be interesting to see if the classics would continue to endure if humanity suddenly resolved many of its problems.
Young Prince Edward lived a life of luxury with servants to grant his every wish. Tom Canty spent his days begging on the streets, and his nights in a hovel with his tyrannical father. When the two boys meet, a simple switch of clothing sets them on a path they'd never dreamt possible. The prince, mistaken for Tom, is forced to live a pauper's life, while Tom unwillingly takes on the life of a prince. And in the end, each boy finds the king inside himself. ~ A long time ago, in the land of England that is ruled by the vicious King Henry VII, two young boys find themselves trapped in each other's worlds. One, a prince, the other a pauper, adjust to the very different situations of which they are now entrapped. Written in 1881, Mark Twain captures the world of Tudor England with astounding accuracy.--Submitted by S. Russell
The Prince and the Pauper, written by Mark Twain tells the story of two unsatisfied boys switching lives and the consequences they receive. It takes place in the United Kingdom, in the 16th. century. The young prince of Whales, was tired of his boring life, he wanted more adventure. With the help of Tom Canty, a beggar’s son, he realized his dream was not at all, what he had expected. This book teaches to be content with what you already have, and to be wise in what you long for.--Submitted by jen akosa
Fan of this book? Help us introduce it to others by writing a better introduction for it. It's quick and easy, click here.