You may remember a few chapters back that Protag-Man was going to travel incognito and live among the people to gauge their life. You only may remember it because it hasn’t happened yet. Sad to say that it won’t happen in this chapter either. More diversions. Though, Arthur is certainly struck with the idea. So, that’s something, at least.
“There was a very good layout for the king’s-evil business—very tidy and credible. The king sat under a canopy of state; about him were clustered a large body of clergy in full canonicals. Conspicuous, both for location and personal outfit, stood Marinel, a hermit of the quack-doctor species, to introduce the sick” (205).
So, this segment of the book is all about how every so often, the king holds this ceremony to heal the sick; what’s remarkable about this is that the sick really do get healed, though it is presumed to be through placebo than a divine miracle.
Lots of meditation in this chapter: in this part, the meditation is on how the king stops being king essentially when he is unable to cure the sick. This part, then, is just a rumination on how Protag-Man sees the healthcare system of the early medieval period (though, again, this is a period which is temporally disjointed as stone castles exist and those definitely didn’t exist in the early middle ages). I guess it is interesting but not really noteworthy, not enough to ponder.
Why is this described as the king’s “evil business”, though? Like, that doesn’t make any sense. They are calling on God’s divine power to heal, so why would it be evil? Are they referring to the sickness?
“So I had privately concluded to touch the treasury itself for the king’s evil” (206).
At these healing events, the king hands out coin necklaces worth about a quarter of a dollar. It has to do with how the patients are healed. Sounds pagan, which is pretty cool, as it hints at history where many Anglo-Saxon pagans actually had a fusion of traditional paganism and Christianity.
Protag-Man, then, does some fancy-swanky calculations to make it so the king saves money while handing out these gifts. It amounts to creating nickels and allowing the currency to be inflated a bit; this doesn’t have an adverse effect, though, because the monetary gifts handed out here are not going to be spent. So, it balances out.
“[Taxes were] exactly distributed among them (the population) that the annual cost to the 100-millionaire and the annual cost to the sucking child of the day-laborer was practically the same—each paid $6” (207).
Though it is progressive by today’s standards, which means that Twain is referencing a king of social-democratic reformism, it still sounds like the day-laborer is getting the short end of the stick. When a damn millionaire only has to pay six bucks in taxes while the struggling worker must pay exactly the same, you know who the system works for—the capitalists.
The plot gets back to the healing hoedown. Protag-Man gets bored and looks out the window. There, he sees a boy selling the first newspapers. He buys one and shows it to the priests to liven things up. Obviously, the priests are weary but bewildered and Protag-Man is in heaven since he is basking in the glory of introducing technology to the savage. Really, not much more than that happens. He acknowledges that journalism needs to improve then the chapter ends.
And so, part five concludes. Finally.
I’m going to be honest: it is getting tedious to read this book. You’ve probably noticed this with how I am been being curt and skimming content, reducing commentary to the most relevant. I’m just getting bored with how the novel is written. Even though it was fun and lively at first, the basic formula is starting to wear on me; it amounts to Protag-Man being smug and full of himself, introducing technology, having people marvel at that technology, while every once in a while, having to defend his position or go on a quest. It’s been predictable and not really that entertaining to comment on.
That is why I am taking a break from entries in this Let’s Read series.
I’ve decided to start publishing my Let’s Read pieces to T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. That series, for at least the Sword in the Stone, is completed, so it should be a nice change of pace. I will return to Twain’s text; when I do, I will likely cover multiple chapters at once in an effort to excavate the text and make each entry more lively. But, for now, I am pleased to focus on White’s grand story.
See you soon!