This classic satire represented Mark Twain's first foray into historical fiction, a clear departure from the homespun wisdom and humor for which he became best known. The narrative surrounds two boys living in England in 1547, who are alike in appearance but very different in every other respect. Tom Canty is the pauper of the title, living in the slums of London with his abusive father, while Edward is the son of King Henry VIII, and heir to the throne of England. Edward is anxious to cast off the responsibilities of princedom, and Tom is eager to escape his father's beatings, so they agree to temporarily switch their clothes and their social roles. Each boy struggles mightily to adapt to the everyday life of the other, as Tom can not abide by the strict rules of etiquette and ritual which dictate the behavior of royalty, and Edward is appalled by the horrific injustices and living conditions he witnesses among the poor. In the midst of their grand experiment, King Henry dies, which makes "Edward" the reigning ruler of the country, while "Tom" is tossed into prison and nearly executed because of an unfair law. Luckily, with the help of a resourceful soldier named Miles, the boys resume their rightful roles, each with a newfound appreciation of the difficulties of life at the opposite end of the class spectrum.
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- July 1, 2003
- July 1, 2003
- Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Mark Twain