Academic | Essay Contest
Caroline Esther Rudd
Tom Canty, Edward VI, and Miles Hendon were all uncorrupted by outside influences, but they were not uninfluenced by them. 'No man is an island.'1 Those around us, what we have been taught, and our experiences shape us all. The whole world is a classroom, life is the teacher and we are her pupils. Our lessons, the extent to which we learn them and how they shape us vary from person to person. Tom, Edward and Miles were all fundamentally decent, but for different reasons, under different circumstances.
Tom was born a pauper and the 'meanest of [the king's] subjects.'2 He had a disreputable father and an insufferable grandmother, both of whom beat him regularly and sought to influence him for evil. Yet, Tom remained unadulterated. His mother and twin sisters, Bet and Nan, were goodhearted, though profoundly ignorant. Father Andrew secretly educated Tom, Bet and Nan in right ways. He also taught Tom reading, writing, and some Latin. Tom was a smart boy who enjoyed studying and "often read the priest's books and got him to explain and enlarge upon them."3 Tom spent vast amounts of his time reading and thinking about nobility. His concentration on these things had such a strong effect on him that it slowly but surely changed the way he thought and behaved from pathetic to princely. "Full-grown people brought their perplexities to Tom for solution and were often astonished at the wit and wisdom of his decisions."4 It was this same wisdom that came to his rescue when the title of prince (and later king) was thrust upon him, albeit unasked. While Tom was king, he extended justice with mercy; he had compassion on others because he knew firsthand how hard life could be.
Edward VI was raised in an environment where he was loved and revered by all. His father, Henry VIII, was known by all for his fierce temper and cruelty, but to Edward he was ever a loving and kind father. Having had the best tutors and having been raised in such a nurturing environment shaped Edward into a kind and benevolent, though slightly arrogant and prideful, young prince. For "learning softeneth the heart and breedeth gentleness and charity."5
The time Edward VI spent living as a pauper taught him much about mercy, compassion, humility and thankfulness that he might not have learned otherwise. He came to appreciate children's simple and trusting ways, for they were the only ones who truly believed him.6
Being imprisoned for a time opened his eyes to some of the horrors his people faced under the current laws and taught him the necessity of merciful laws. These are but a few of the things he learned and never forgot. For "as long as the king lived he was fond of telling the story of his adventures... the frequent rehearsing of the precious lesson kept him strong in purpose to make its teachings yield benefits to his people."7 Therefore, the reign of Edward VI was one characterized by mercy and compassion.
Born into a moderately affluent family, Miles Hendon knew sorrow at a young age because his mother died when he was a boy. His father was kind-hearted and generous, as was his older brother. Having such noble role models greatly influenced Miles for good. His love of the lady Edith and the frequent dwelling of his thoughts on her gentle and loving spirit, also ennobled his own thoughts and behavior. When Miles was 20, he was banned from the house for three years and joined the army, fighting in various wars. His seven years in an enemy prison taught him to have great patience and gave him much time to think about the complexities of life. He proved himself capable of great loyalty and love during his time with Edward VI. The wisdom he had gained over the years displayed itself in his preference for true love and untainted honor over honors and high positions gained by flattery and deception.8
Miles did not let the misfortunes he suffered make him bitter; but used them to his advantage by applying the lessons they afforded. He realized that one cannot always control one's circumstances, but one can control the way he reacts to them; one should always try to make the best of any situation.
All three of the characters were shaped first by their upbringings and secondly by their educations and life experiences. Thus, we see the importance of teaching children right from wrong at a young age. Every human being has the capacity for nobility and greatness, but very few achieve either. Tom, Edward and Miles achieved both; the nobility of their thoughts so dictated their actions that, no matter what the circumstances, they could not act in a manner lower than their conscience bid them.
1 John Donne, Meditation XVII
2 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 23
3 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 4
4 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 6
5 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 18
6 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 129
7 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 221
8 Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, (AERIE) 186