Academic | Essay Contest
I am dyslexic, which means I have trouble reading, yet I still enjoy Mark Twain's stories. I have read a simplified version of The Prince and the Pauper, listened to the original, seen a video performance, and even attended an Off-Broadway production. Twain's main characters are especially interesting to me because when they face their own challenges, they decide to use the skills they have to make the best of things. Their problems in life do not make them bitter and mean like some of the characters around them. In The Prince and the Pauper, Tom Canty, Miles Hendon, and Edward VI all find themselves in difficult situations. Because they have good natures and because they have been affected by the goodness of role models in their lives, they, in turn, choose to be good to others.
When his court thought that Tom Canty was King, he saved a woman and her child from death. Tom was curious to see if the woman could make a storm by taking off her stockings. But when the woman "protested, with tears that she had no power to do the miracle, else she would gladly win her child's life alone, and be content to lose her own," Tom was touched. He said that his own mother would "call her storms and lay the whole land in ruins, if the saving of my forfeit life were the price she got." Because of his recognition of the expression of motherly love, Tom set the mother and daughter free. He commanded that, if her power returned to her, that the woman should come back and "fetch me a storm." Even though Tom's father and grandmother beat him unfairly, the love of his mother and "good-hearted" sisters Bet and Nan showed him kindness. His mother, although hungry, saved scraps of her own food for him. Also, the "good old priest," Father Andrew who lived in the house in Offal Court "used to get the children aside and teach them right ways secretly." Tom's father and grandmother could turn the children into beggars, because they were very poor, but not into thieves.
Unlike Tom, Miles Hendon lost his mother when she died while he was still a boy. Miles describes his father as being "of a most generous nature, "and his older brother Arthur as having "a soul like to his father's." Hugh, the youngest brother was "a mean spirit...a reptile...from the cradle." Miles, although he admits to being wild in his youth, loved Lady Edith, "beautiful, gentle, good." The wicked Hugh, by "magnifying" Miles' faults is able to convince their father that, in defiance of their father's will, Miles intends to steal away with Lady Edith who is promised to the eldest brother, Arthur. Miles is banished from his home, goes to war, and winds up in prison for seven years. The experience does not make Miles bitter. When he sees the young Edward being abused by the mob at the gates of Guildhall, Miles defends Edward with his sword. He carries the new king away from danger to his own lodgings on London Bridge. When Miles cannot find extra blankets, he takes off his own coat even though he is cold and puts it over Edward to keep him warm. He decides that the child "shall never leave my side" and "he shall be cured." He fetches a new set of clothing for Edward, and goes off to find him when Edward is fooled into leaving the Inn. When Hugh has Miles arrested again and put into the stocks for "assaulting the master of Hendon Hall," the little king stands by him. Miles, in spite of his own great sadness, takes a whipping in place of the king. Miles' sacrifice quiets the unruly crowd. Miles chooses to be good to Edward with no hope of reward.
As for Edward, from the first time we meet him he is good and generous. Mark Twain tells us in the beginning of the book that all of England celebrated the birth of the young prince. He knew from very early childhood that he was wanted and special. When Edward sees Tom mistreated by a guard at the gate, he yells at the guard and brings Tom inside and gives him food. Edward's father has a bad reputation, but when Edward hears of his father's death Twain tells us " to the rest of the world the name of Henry VIII brought a shiver," but to Edward "the name brought only sensations of pleasure, the figure it invoked wore a countenance that was all gentleness and affection." In the end of the book, Twain implies that because of this fictional experience Edward's reign, although short, was "singularly merciful." The little king slept side by side with a calf in a stable to keep warm one night. He experienced being poor. He witnessed the suffering of his poor subjects. Edward tells an unsympathetic member of his court "What dost thou know of suffering and oppression? I and my people know, but not thou."
Twain is telling us that harsh experiences and unfair treatment by ignorant people can give us an opportunity to behave better. Whether we are born princes or paupers in life, if we are good by nature or learn our behavior from good role models, we can be royalty.