The Prince and the Pauper - Literary Touchstone Classic

by Mark Twain

Paperback, 2007

Status

Available

Call number

PB Twa

Call number

PB Twa

Local notes

PB Twa

Publication

Prestwick House, Inc. (2007), 232 pages

Description

When young Edward VI of England and a poor boy who resembles him exchange places, each learns something about the other's very different station in life.

Language

Original publication date

1881

Physical description

232 p.

ISBN

1580496725 / 9781580496728

Barcode

1745

User reviews

LibraryThing member TadAD
The basic story line of The Prince and the Pauper is probably familiar to everyone as it has become a Hollywood staple in a long series of movies: screen adaptations of varying qualities of the book directly, as well as basic plot lifts like "A Change of Place" or "Model Behavior".

Twain’s book is more than just the piece of Hollywood froth into which it’s generally made, however. The ironic and amused tone that is present in so many of his works is much reduced; Twain’s reflections on his subject are darker and pointed. There is humor in the book...a fair amount of it...but there is also a very direct criticism of social systems where the ordinary person is at the mercy of authority, reflections on "the grass is always greener...", and the folly of judging someone by their appearances or circumstances.

The novel is a bit slower-paced than his more famous works and a modern editor would probably cut a bit of Edward’s continual ranting about his rights when taken for Tom. Nonetheless, as with every Twain novel I’ve tried, this one is worth reading.
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LibraryThing member la2bkk
The basic story line offered so much potential for compelling social commentary. However, Twain's effort really accomplished little more than a mildly entertaining novel. While an enjoyable read, particularly for its description of 16th century English society, I was disappointed at the lack of sophistication.
LibraryThing member puuchan
One day two babies was born. But they are very different lives-one is aprince, the other is a pauper. Ten years later, they change p;aces.
I was excited thinking what will happen next.
And courage of the prince moved me.
But i dont like the end of this story. I was disappointed.
LibraryThing member ntempest
Possibly my favorite Twain novel. So many people know the basics of this story that I think few of them ever read the original anymore. The politics and social commentary in this book are some of the best Twain produced. His subtle condemnation of the way society separated the haves and have nots during his day (and still does, if truth be told) is spot on and utterly compelling, all without compromising story or character.… (more)
LibraryThing member 14hermannsc
I did not like this book because it was very hard to understand (at least the version i read). I think that Mark Twain over did the old english a little bit.
LibraryThing member josejalapeno
In this book, Prince Edward and a beggar, Tom Canty, switch places accidentally. They have many different adventures based on what kind of people they were with. It's in England, during the reign of King Henry VIII. Most of the characters were fictionally made. Overall, it was an okay book; but unless you don't enjoy the medieval way the characters talk, then i suggest you don't read this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member hjjugovic
I could have sword I had read this years ago, but it felt fresh to me when I read it on DailyLit this time. Twain is such a genius! I loved this little story with so much depth and humor. I was also surprised to see how much historical research went into it. This is recommended to everyone.
LibraryThing member Sean191
The Prince and the Pauper reminded me very much of Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. There were last second rescue, unbelievable circumstance, local dialects (or an estimation of them at least) abusive fathers, faithful companions...the list goes on. Unfortunately, I don't think Twain did as good a job tapping into old England as he did to the Mississippi river area.… (more)
LibraryThing member momma2
Although the kids had a hard time following the story (just like with Shakespeare, must be the Old English) this was a really good book. We just paused periodically to make sure that everyone was up to speed. This was not at all what I expected from Mark Twain although it did bear his hallmark humor. It was like a Tom and Huck scheme gone wrong with thees and thous. It was a much more in depth story than what you might suppose if all you had been exposed to is the animated versions. I was pleased and entertained.… (more)
LibraryThing member gbill
"The Prince and the Pauper" is a simple read and has a fairly predictable ending; I don't think it will knock anyone's socks off, but it is well written and a bit of a classic. Twain's original concept of switching roles and fortunes is also one that has been often copied (e.g. the movie "Trading Places" with Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd :-).

There is an interesting undercurrent in the book, for while Twain mocks royalty overtly in scenes such as one with the attendants passing the king's clothes one by one down to him through a long line like a fire brigade, he also does this more subtly. In putting royalty in the context of the 16th century and its way of life - which included many examples of needless violence and cruel torture, ignorant superstition, and fundamental unfairness - Twain shows it as outmoded as all of those things. It is arbitrary and corruptible, he is pointing out, and hereditary power for the few while many suffer is wrong. It is a novel set in London and Dickensian in style, but it has an American message at its core.

Quotes:
"...when the office of Taster had its perils, and was not a grandeur to be desired. Why they did not use a dog or a plumber seems strange; but all the ways of royalty are strange."

"None believe in me - neither wilt thou. But no matter - within the compass of a month thou shalt be free; and more, the laws that have dishonoured thee, and shamed the English name, shall be swept from the statute books. The world is made wrong; kings should go to school to their own laws, at times, and so learn mercy."

"...they stepped upon London Bridge, in the midst of a writhing, struggling jam of howling and hurrahing people, whose beer-jolly faces stood out strongly in the glare from manifold torches - and at that instant the decaying head of some former duke or other grandee tumbled down between them, striking Hendon on the elbow and then bounding off among the hurrying confusion of feet. So evanescent and unstable are men's works, in this world! - the late good king is but three weeks dead and three days in his grave, and already the adornments which he took such pains to select from prominent people for his noble bridge are falling."

"Once when his royal "sister", the grimly holy lady Mary, set herself to reason with him against the wisdom of his course in pardoning so many people who would otherwise be jailed or hanged or burned, and reminded him that their august late father's prisons had sometimes contained as high as sixty thousand convicts at one time, and that during his admirable reign he had delivered seventy-two thousand thieves and robbers over to death by the executioner*, the boy was filled with generous indignation, and commanded her to go to her closet and beseech God to take away the stone that was in her breast and give her a human heart."
* Hume's England
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LibraryThing member nm.fall07.schora
this book was really interesting but in some parts of it this book was confusing because you didn't know who was who. The prince and the pauper had many lessons in it that i think where interesting. I liked that the prince got to experience how life was for many people. He realized that his life was pretty great compaired to other people's. I think that elementry or middle school students would like this book better than adults and teens.… (more)
LibraryThing member JovanH470Volny
The prince and the Pauper is a well-known story, a classic written by Mark Twain, a superb 19th century writer. This book starts off in London during the rule of Henry VII. On the streets of London resides the Canty family. With a dead beat, drunken, and heavily abusive dad, and no money to fuel his drinking habits, he resorts to violence and beats his only son, and our main character, Tom Canty. When tom was born he was born with the same features and everything, as the prince, Edward, they were even born on the same day and hour. These two young individuals meet each other in a course of different events and decide that they want to have a perspective of the others life, and that it would be easy because of their visual similarities. They later find that this was not as good of an idea as they though it would be. As they face the hardships of each other’s lives. And what is more of a problem; they can’t get a hold of each other to switch back. In a turn of fate they do however, and all things are reversed back and even improved as Edward becomes King, and tom becomes his right hand man.

The Prince and the Pauper is a wonderful classic novel, and many have enjoyed it. It’s meant for anyone and has a good meaning intended to the readers. Mark twain is a wonderful author, and writes books such as this that will keep your face glued to the pages. I’d even suggest reading it more than once just because it is that much of an enjoyable read.
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LibraryThing member walterqchocobo
I really like this story and sometimes it is just good to go back and re-read the classics. Plenty of good social commentary in here but it is a great story too.
LibraryThing member norabelle414
Audiobook - Edward VI, Prince of Wales, meets a poor boy named Tom Canty who looks just like him. They trade clothes for fun, which results in the true prince being kicked out of the castle and Tom being confused for the prince. Edward roams around the city being abused by Tom's father, captured and forced to steal by a band of thieves, and getting arrested twice. He learns the true plight of his poorest subjects, which allows him to eventually become a kind and fair king. Tom learns, um, how to behave at a fancy dinner party?

The general plot - a poor person and a rich person look alike and trade lives - is timeless and well-known. The details of the plot are just decent historical fiction. It's an interesting look into 1540s England, but not much more. It would have been nice if Tom had learned some kind of lesson in the end, too, like valuing his mother and sister or something. But nope. The narrator, Steve West, was very good, especially considering the dialogue is all Tudor-era-appropriate.
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LibraryThing member mausergem
This is my first book by Mark Twain. It's a fictionised story using some real characters like King Henry VIII and his son King Edward VI.

Tom Canty, a begger boy, is very keen on seeing the prince Edward who is the same age that he is. One day when he is roaming in the vicinity of the King's palace, he sees the prince. He is invited into the private chambers of the prince and seeing their remarkable resemblance they decide to play a jest. They exchange clothes and try to act each other's part. Things take a wrong turn and the real prince is thrown out on the streets and Tom is considered as the prince. What follows is a merry adventure for both of them.

The conversations in the book are in old English which take a bit of time getting used to but overall it's a fun read.
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LibraryThing member fdholt
Mark Twain’s The prince and the pauper is the story of two boys, Prince Edward and Tom Canty, who meet by chance and decide to exchange clothes with unexpected results. It is also the story of Miles Hendon, knight errant, who stumbles upon a ragged boy and takes an interest. We are drawn into the high courts of Tudor England as well as the slums and prisons and learn quite a bit about the harsh life in those times. Most criminals were sentenced to death, even for thievery of something as simple as a crust of bread. Both boys were appalled and did what they could to make things better for the aristocracy, the middle classes and the poor.

I read this book many years ago along with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and did not realize the social implications of either. Twain was making a point that life in England was not the rosy picture that many authors painted; he researched his subject and used material written in the 16th century to support his story. (There were some artistic liberties, but then this is a novel.)

The dialog was in “Elizabethan” English, which can be hard to understand for some. However, there are some editions that have modernized the language. My copy of the book included endnotes to explain some of the material in the book; reading these gave me a better sense of the story. (However, I could have done without the description of death by boiling in oil!) There was also an afterward by Kenneth Lynn which put the book into perspective in Twain’s literary output, a list of Twain’s major works with original date of publication, and a bibliography of literary criticism current to 1963.

Since it is a short novel, The prince and the pauper can be enjoyed by all levels of readers.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
Tom Canty, a young pauper in England, dreams of living a better life. One day he finds himself inside the king’s palace and in the presence of the prince. The two boys are the exact same age and discover that they look identical. They are amused and swap clothes to entertain themselves. Chaos, of course, ensues and the prince is thrown out of his own palace, while Tom Canty is unwillingly thrust into the role of prince in the confusion.

I was expecting a short parable or fable about two boys, in very different situations, who end up swapping lives for a day. I’ll admit most of this assumption was based on watching the Mickey Mouse version of the Prince and the Pauper when I was young. I also didn’t realize that Twain used an actual prince, Henry VIII’s only son, Edward VI, as the title prince in his story.

The book is more of a lesson in merciful leadership than a fanciful tale. The heart of the story lies in the true prince learning the importance of governing with a balance of strength and wisdom, not just blind power.
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LibraryThing member theokester
The Prince and the Pauper is one of those books that part of me always thought I had read because I had seen so many movie adaptations of the book. Some were intended as direct adaptations and others took some significant leeway but they all sort of had a similar vibe. I've always enjoyed Twain but in recent years I've re-realized that I haven't read as many of his novels as I feel I should have. So with that background, I sat down with Prince and the Pauper.

In case there are any people unfamiliar with the story, the basic idea is that we are in ~1600s London and there is a young prince who happens to meet a pauper who has an uncanny twin-like resemblance to the prince. Through some unintended circumstances, the prince ends up kicked out of his own castle while the pauper is set up as the prince in his place. Each boy tries to acclimate to his new surroundings and deal with the extreme change in social class. Further complications arise when the King dies and it is announced that the prince is to be crowned King of England.

The first thing that struck me with this book was the style. Twain has always been one who is noted for his rhetoric and his use of dialect and style in such a way as to portray the era and culture he is trying to represent. As such, he writes this book with a somewhat stilted and formal narration filled with "thy"s and "thou"s and "wherefore"s. I had no problem with the language, I just wasn't expecting it. Whether or not it actually added to the tone and nature of the book, I'm not quite sure. I don't think it painted the scene quite as much as do the dialog of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer but I was still impressed with his use of vocabulary and style to help convey a certain time period.

I also naturally discovered quick differences between the book and the various movie versions. In most of the movie adaptations I've seen, the Prince and Pauper decide to switch places as a sort of game and they are both excited at the idea of swapping roles. In the book, the prince notices their similar appearance and suggests they exchange clothes to see just how similar they might look. The concept of actually exchanging roles never really entered into the discussion and each boy is in fact quite frightened and upset when the exchange occurs.

Not being an avid historian, I can't fully speak to Twain's portrayal either of royalty or poverty of the era, but I did feel both a disgust and a compassion upon the poverty stricken of 16th century London. The squalor they were forced to live in was truly unspeakable. What struck me as interesting was the way Twain presented the reality of the situation. Even though the lifestyle was miserable and unhappy, the people had a sense of acceptance and made the best they could out of bad situations. As the prince tried to fit in and adapt to his new circumstances, each time he complained or worried about the filth and poverty he was chided by those around him and they seemed to be accepting and perhaps even unconsciously ignorant of their plight. It's an interesting social idea and seems to push the idea that those who haven't ever known better never really aspire to better or those who see no opportunity for social mobility are content to stay where they are, no matter how awful. I personally think that mindset may be somewhat true but I think more likely is that those living in poverty were frankly just too exhausted and overwhelmed with trying to survive that they seldom had energy to think about was to escape their situation, let alone to devise a method to climb the social ladder.

I found myself comparing the life of Twain's prince/pauper in lower class London with Dickens's lower class characters in Oliver Twist or some of his other works. In some ways, I felt like the attitudes of Twain's characters felt a little more realistic but in other instances I felt like Dickens had a better handle on the minds, motivations and actions of the English poor. As I thought about it, I decided that Twain's characters had more "modern" thought processes while Dickens's characters were more likely evocative of a real life citizen of lower class London.

The life of the pauper-turned-prince in the palace is interesting but is often treated with much less detail and consideration than our prince-turned-pauper. We see snippets of life in the castle as the pauper tries to understand his new role and become accustomed to being waited on by attendants on all sides. After a variety of worrisome advisement from counselors and even the king, the young pauper finally takes the role upon himself and does his best to pretend at being the prince. Fortunately he has a few trusted advisors. While they don't believe that he is actually a pauper (everyone thinks he's gone mad), they do work to help him carry out his duties with gentle nudges and whispered reminders of proper behavior and etiquette. Once the king dies, the prince is expected to oversee various declarations and judgements and Twain takes this opportunity to provide some "Solomon-like" deliberations in court to showcase the young pauper's compassion as well as his quick thinking and wit.

Meanwhile, the prince-turned-pauper finds himself fighting for survival in lower class London and finally making friends with a man who also doesn't believe the change in roles (he also thinks the boy must be crazy) but he pretends to believe and acts to help the prince in a variety of ways. The prince never tries to adapt himself to the world of the lower class. He continually tries to convince everyone of his royal lineage and rights. Naturally this doesn't help his situation get any better and in most cases it results in ridicule or harassment of some type.

The high level plot is comical and often used throughout drama and literature. Offhand I can't think how many Shakespearean plays have to do with mistaken or switched identity either with twins or disguise or some other form of subterfuge. Twain uses this oft used trope to bring a lot of light hearted comedy to an investigation of the inequality of social classes and the unbalanced nature of cultural distinctions. The story was very entertaining and had plenty of Twain's quick wit and snarky humor. Beyond the simple humor and the fun, cute story, there is a lot of great material to think about both from social standpoints and from the aspect of literary scholarship. I think it would be entertaining some day to compare Twain's London with Dickens's London or to evaluate Twain's social concerns from this book with any of the various social problems of modern society.

I had a lot of fun reading this book and definitely recommend it. The reading, tone and nature of the writing could be very accessible and entertaining to young readers. Some of the language may be harder for elementary school kids but they would likely enjoy having it read to them. Older readers will enjoy the quick wit, nuanced humor and insightful perspectives on social inequality. Overall this is a great book that is definitely overshadowed by Twain's larger works and as such is likely often overlooked. While it may not be quite as rich as Twain's more impactful books, it definitely stands on its own as a solid classic.

4.5 out of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member AshRyan
Most people are familiar with the basic situation of this classic story, but there is much more to Twain's original version than to its many adaptations. Of course, the crucial fact of these two boys being born in such different circumstances at the same time and identical in appearance and meeting as they do is pretty fabulous, but then, it is intended as a fable. At root, this is a story about the arbitrariness of hereditary nobility in general and monarchy in particular, and in true Twain fashion there are many biting and hilarious scenes. However, Twain fails to be true to his own theme in his resolution, which basically amounts to "...and despite what you would expect from everything that's happened so far, they all lived happily ever after." It would have been much more powerful and memorable had they failed to prove their true identities and the pauper had remained king, and the king a pauper...but I suppose a lot of readers wouldn't have liked that ending (which would have been the point!). But in any case, Twain's story is well worth reading just as it is.… (more)
LibraryThing member DelightedLibrarian
SO different from the Disney version its amusing. But it was an interesting read. I wonder whose perspective of history is more accurate, Twains because he was closer in time, or ours because we have more research and available information...
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
After a chance meeting, Edward, Prince of Wales (son of Henry VIII) and poor Tom Canty, curious about what it would feel like to wear the other's clothes, swap clothes. They are both astonished when they look in a mirror and realize their extraordinary likeness. Tom looks like the prince in the prince's clothes, and Edward looks like Tom in Tom's rags. While still wearing Tom's clothes, Prince Edward ends up outside the palace grounds. No one believes him when he says he is the Prince of Wales. No one believes Tom when he says he is not the prince. Their inability to recognize faces and surroundings that should be familiar is blamed on a fit of madness. Then Henry VIII dies, and both boys despair of ever going back to their rightful places.

Although I've been familiar with the basic plot for as long as I can remember, this is the first time I've read the story. I had formed an impression that the prince was a fictional character, so I was surprised when he turned out to be Edward VI. (I have no doubt that Tom Canty is fictional, though!) If I had known how much I would enjoy the story, I wouldn't have put it off for so long. Even though the outcome is never in doubt, each boy's adventures in the other's world kept me a captivated listener. The only negative feature worth noting is the overly flowery language, which doesn't seem anywhere close to authentic. While this is a classic of children's literature, the language will probably cause many 21st century young readers to lose interest before the plot takes hold of them.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
I remember enjoying this book as a child (although I can't remember what age) and since my son is interested in Mark Twain, we listened to the audiobook on a recent road trip. It was a little bit more complicated than I remembered, and frankly we both had trouble following parts of the story, but perhaps that is a challenge of audiobooks compared with print. The basic story is well-known in which the poor and abused Tom Canty meets Prince Edward and discovering they resemble one another, swap clothing. Through a comedy of errors, they are separated and end up with Tom unwillingly becoming king and the prince having to live life at the very bottom of society. All works out in the end, and Twain is probably too kind on Edward VI's actual legacy as king, but the book delves into some of the gritty realities of impoverished masses and the court intrigues of the elites.… (more)
LibraryThing member santhony
For Christmas, I ordered an mp3 player (Library of Classics) that was pre-loaded with 100 works of classic literature in an audio format. Each work is in the public domain and is read by amateurs, so the quality of the presentation is hit or miss.

The premise of The Prince and The Pauper is ages old; two people from wildly divergent ways of life switch places, with predictable consequences. This is a very simple and short story, the protagonists being Edward VI, first Prince of Wales and then King of England, and a penniless ragamuffin. The Prince thinks the carefree lifestyle of the ragamuffin sounds attractive and the pair change clothes and identities.

If you can get past the utterly absurd premise that the two boys were so exactly alike that their mothers and closest friends were unable to detect the switch, there are a few amusing scenarios, but the story soon becomes tiresome and maddeningly repetitive.

Instead of using fictional characters,Twain uses the historical Edward VI as his Prince, implying that the time spent among the lower classes of his kingdom served to make him a more caring and empathetic monarch. Of course, this holds little historical water, as Edward died at the age of fifteen and was never more than a puppet for the power hungry factions that surrounded the throne.

I’m sure there are any number of metaphors and morals to be gleaned from the story, but as simple entertainment, it falls short.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This classic story of mixed identity between the boy King Edward VI and pauper Tom Canty is a heartwarming and easy read. Mark Twain's first historical novel, it follows the tradition of of 19th century historical novels in telling as much about the assumptions of the time it was written (1881) as about the time it is set (1547), e.g. in terms of Royal mercy and concern for the poor. The language is a joy to read and this Kindle edition contains all the many illustrations.… (more)
LibraryThing member santhony
For Christmas, I ordered an mp3 player (Library of Classics) that was pre-loaded with 100 works of classic literature in an audio format. Each work is in the public domain and is read by amateurs, so the quality of the presentation is hit or miss.

The premise of The Prince and The Pauper is ages old; two people from wildly divergent ways of life switch places, with predictable consequences. This is a very simple and short story, the protagonists being Edward VI, first Prince of Wales and then King of England, and a penniless ragamuffin. The Prince thinks the carefree lifestyle of the ragamuffin sounds attractive and the pair change clothes and identities.

If you can get past the utterly absurd premise that the two boys were so exactly alike that their mothers and closest friends were unable to detect the switch, there are a few amusing scenarios, but the story soon becomes tiresome and maddeningly repetitive.

Instead of using fictional characters,Twain uses the historical Edward VI as his Prince, implying that the time spent among the lower classes of his kingdom served to make him a more caring and empathetic monarch. Of course, this holds little historical water, as Edward died at the age of fifteen and was never more than a puppet for the power hungry factions that surrounded the throne.

I’m sure there are any number of metaphors and morals to be gleaned from the story, but as simple entertainment, it falls short.
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Pages

232

Rating

(990 ratings; 3.7)
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