So, can Protag-man save himself? Honestly, if you don’t know the answer to this yet, then, seriously.
“I said to myself that my eclipse was sure to save me, and make me the greatest man in the kingdom besides; […] [I]n a business way it would be the making of me; I knew that” (40).
It is still the most ridiculous thing imaginable—being transported back in time to King Arthur’s ‘day’, being sentence to die, and then betting your salvation on an eclipse that you just so happen to know will happen at the time of transportation, because of course you studied such things!
Regardless, these semicolons are driving me up the wall. They appear in just the oddest friggin’ places. Though none of them are incorrect, per se, they just seem redundant. Maybe it is just the free version of the book I am using, I dunno.
So, after some time has passed, the guard comes and announces that Protag-man’s execution time has been moved up to today; turns out that Clarence was responsible: he says that he lied about Protag-man’s power so that Protag-man would not need to do the sun any real damage; the idea being that by showing his power today, when it was supposedly weaker, would frighten Arthur into releasing him. Ah, don’t you love it when you are screwed over by well-meaning simpletons?
“I choked out some words through my grief and misery; as much to say that I would spare the sun; for which the lad’s eyes paid me back with such deep and loving gratitude that I had not the heart to tell him his good-hearted foolishness had ruined me and sent me to my death” (42).
Man, this bit of interior monologue is amusing as hell. I supposed, however, that it is a bit paternalistic in that these Early Middle Aged yokels care only about the sun going out while our big and strong Protag-man is purposely trying to subdue these people into a Robinson Crusoe type arrangement. But still, funny, partly because of the interplay of irony as found in the conflation and confusion of magic and superstition with life and death; the lines become blurred and in that blurring there emerges difficulties with subjectivity.
So everyone is all stone-like and frozen. Very excusable as they are about to watch a man be killed; but methinks that they are more frozen over concern for the sun. Thankfully, though…
“With a common impulse the multitude rose slowly up and stared into the sky. I followed their eyes, and sure as guns, there was my eclipse beginning!”
It is moments like this that do make me think that Protag-man is simply dreaming being transported back in time. That would make since considering all of the historical inaccuracies and whatnot. The idea that the eclipse would start now, because, as it turns out, Clarence made a mistake in understanding the date, seems far too convenient. Though perhaps it is also a meta-commentary on Twain’s part which takes aim at narrative.
So, the torch is about to be applied when Arthur forbids it and there is altercation; Merlin wants who is an obvious competitor eliminated but Arthur is scared to death of the sun going all explody.
“’Stay where you are. If any man moves—even the king—before I give him leave, I will blast him with thunder, I will consume him with lightnings!’” (43).
I’m actually surprised this works, but then again, this is not the postmodern age, so I guess it makes sense. It is not like there is hordes of people constantly tempting others with their petty will shit. The short version is that the crowd pleads with King Arthur to supplicate Protag-man and thereby ward off the oncoming disaster; this works, against the protests of Merlin, but it is a precarious position as Protag-man isn’t magic and the eclipse happens regardless, so Protag-man makes up some excuse. It is actually pretty boring. Though, there is plenty here if I wanted to do a psychological criticism. But the end result of this is that the absurd scheme works and Protag-man becomes the second most powerful man in the kingdom.
“’but you shall appoint me your perpetual minister and executive, and give me for my service one percent of such actual increase of revenue over and above its present amount as I may succeed in creating for the state” (44).
Protag-man is a capitalist pig in every sense of the word: he cares only for himself, uses then disposes of those around him, and manipulates his way to the top through cold, hard calculation and profit drives. What a dick. But still, it is fascinating all the while to see how his vision of transforming the sixth century will work out because it is a hastily grafted replica of an era which should not exist onto a period which could not possibly develop such ideas. Always fun to see the results—speculative imperialism, anyone?