Monday, June 2, 2008


The Prince and the Pauper is Mark Twain’s historical novel of mistaken identity. In it, Prince Edward and a filthy, destitute urchin who looks exactly like him inadvertently switch places. The majority of the book is spent following the boys, particularly Edward, as they attempt (or not) to regain their rightful places.

This book features numerous historical characters, and Twain researched them and the time period well. There is a great deal of social commentary here, as Twain has quite a lot to say about some of the more ruthless laws that England has had. He also delivers a rather ironic commentary on the social classes of the day.

The Prince and the Pauper is entertaining, although it suffers from slow pacing. There’s entirely too much time spent with people carrying on about how each imposter has gone mad, and how he must be humored, and how this will put him to rights again. It grows tiresome, as does Edward’s continual attempts to assert his kingly rights while dressed in rags. His learning curve is a straight line.

All in all, The Prince and the Pauper is an entertaining enough book, and certainly it inspired innumerable inferior derivatives like few works have, but it doesn’t quite measure up to Twain’s later work of historical fiction, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.