On the same day on which a son is born to Henry VIII, occasioning much celebration, a son is born to John Canty in the squalor of Offal Court. While Edward Tudor is reared as the Prince of Wales, Tom Canty survives on the streets and learns literacy and Latin from a friendly priest. Reading about royalty, he organizes games in which he plays the prince. One day in Westminster, Tom sees the real prince in the palace grounds. When a guard tries to drive Tom away, Edward intervenes and invites Tom to play with him.
To their amazement, they look like twins. To complete the impression, Edward has them exchange clothes. Seeing a bruise which Tom received from the guard, Edward goes to reprimand him, and the guard, thinking him the pauper, drives him from the palace.
Tom is assumed to be Prince of Wales, and when he insists on his real identity, he is thought insane. Shortly thereafter, Henry VIII dies, and the Prince becomes King, only it is the pauper who sits on the throne. Gradually, Tom functions as monarch and by his common sense and feeling for justice rules wisely and well.
Meanwhile, Edward is forced into John Canty’s band of thieves. Mocked by a mob when he insists that he is the king, Edward is saved by Miles Hendon, a soldier of fortune. Canty recaptures the boy and takes him into the countryside, where the king learns of the hardship and suffering of the common people. When, with Hendon’s help, he is restored to the throne, he becomes a better ruler from his experience as a pauper.
An ardent advocate of democracy, Twain shows that a poor boy can be as good a ruler as the son of a king and that a king rules better after living among the poor.
Baetzhold, Howard G. Mark Twain and John Bull. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970. Includes a twenty-page chapter that documents Mark Twain’s British sources for historical details in the novel.
Cummings, Sherwood. Mark Twain and Science: Adventures of a Mind. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988. Cummings examines the often overlooked influence of Mark Twain’s reading of French history on many details in the novel. Summarizes the novel’s flaws, but notes that an important theme in the work is the power of training.
Rasmussen, R. Kent. Mark Twain A to Z. New York: Facts On File, 1995. An indispensable reference on Mark Twain’s life and works. Contains a detailed analytical plot synopsis, background and publishing history, essays on major characters and places, and other topics, including dramatic adaptations of The Prince and the Pauper.
Stahl, John Daniel. “American Myth in European Disguise: Fathers and Sons in The Prince and the Pauper.” American Literature 58, no. 2 (May, 1986): 203-216. Analyzes symbolic father-son relationships in the novel. Notes similarities to other orphaned sons in Twain’s works.
Twain, Mark. The Prince and the Pauper. Edited by Victor Fischer and Lin Salamo. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979. The most authoritative edition available. Corrected text restores the book as Mark Twain intended it to be published. Includes a twenty-five-page historical introduction, the author’s extensive working notes, a chapter that was removed from the first edition, and all 192 original illustrations.
The Prince and the Pauper
- Length: 496 words (1.4 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
The Prince and the Pauper
The three main ideas of this book are (1) two boys' wishes become
true but later they don't enjoy it (2) Be careful what you wish for(3) Always
think about what you're doing first. The two major characters were Tom Canty and Edward, the Prince of Wales.
The conflict was between John Canty, Tom's father, and the prince.
The other conflict was between Tom and the lords, servants, the King, and all the royal people in the castle. John Canty, the lords, the servants, the
King, and all the royal people in the castle opposed Tom and Edward. Tom and Edward opposed them also. The characters deal with the situation that they find themselves in by telling the truth. They never stopped telling everyone one who they really were. They insisted saying that there were not who everyone really thought they were.
Everyone thought Tom and Edward were both mad. The reason why no one believed them is because they both looked alike and they both had exchanged outfits. They exchanged outfits because Edward wanted to feel how it was to be a pauper and how to live like one and Tom wanted to feel how it was to be a prince, the son of the King, and how to live like one. First Tom was enjoying it because he didn't have to beg anymore, he ate good food, and he slept in a nice, cozy bed in the King's palace, but later he didn't enjoy it because he wanted to go back home to his original family and live the way he used to live.
The Prince of Wales, son of the King, Edward was then living like a
Pauper. He was treated badly and never ate anything at all. He was beaten
by John Canty, Tom's father and was always forced to beg. Tom's mom tried to stop John but John and Tom’s sisters watched in just slapped her horror. Edward didn't even enjoy being a pauper at least once. Everyone just
thought that Tom and Edward were both mad.
They solved the confusion, though. After the King had died and Tom
was about to be crowned King of England Edward ran in and said that he was the true King.
How to Cite this Page
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Pauper Prince Go Back Main Ideas Servants Lords Wales Wishes Always Edward
The royal guards grabbed Edward when suddenly Tom ran to Edward and told the guards to take their hands off of him. He told them that Edward was the true King. The noble advisor saw that Tom and Edward looked alike. He gave them a test. The test was to tell the noble advisor where was the Great Seal of England. Edward went into the cabinet wher the Great Seal was supposed to be but to his surprise he found it empty. Tom cried out and told Edward to think and remember where he had last put the Seal. Unfortunately Edward remembered where he had put it and he was crowned King and Tom became Edward's loyal knight.