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Twain's popular novel chronicles the adventures of two young boys, a Prince and a Pauper, who exchange roles and stations in life. Each boy has strong misconception's of what the other boys life is like and series of educational and entertaining adventures play out as the boys grow more comfortable in both their real and assumed roles in life. Mark Twain's Prince and the Pauper is a popular story and a classic from American Literature.


As one of America's first and foremost realists and humorists, Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) usually wrote of things he knew about from firsthand experience. Two of his best-known novels typify this trait: in his Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain immortalized the sleepy little town of Hannibal, Missouri (the fictional St. Petersburg), as well as the steamboats which passed through it daily; likewise, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (written after The Prince and the Pauper), the various characters are based on types which Twain encountered both in his hometown and while working as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River. And even though The Prince and the Pauper is not based on personal experience (it is set in sixteenth-century England), Twain uses the experiences of two young boys gradually losing their innocence, as he did in both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Twain's father was a lawyer, but he was never quite successful, and so he dabbled in land speculation, hoping to become wealthy someday.  Although his family was not wealthy, he apparently had a happy childhood. Twain's father died when he was twelve years old and for the next ten years, he was an apprentice printer both in Hannibal and in New York City. Hoping to find his fortune, he conceived a wild scheme of getting rich in South America. Twain had once been a riverboat pilot for four years and during those times, he became familiar with all of the towns along the Mississippi River.

When the Civil War began, Twain's allegiance tended to be somewhat southern due to his regional heritage, but his brother Orion convinced him to go West on an expedition, a trip which became the subject of a later work, Roughing It. Even though some of his letters and accounts about traveling in frontier America had been published earlier, Twain actually launched his literary career with the short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, published in 1865. Then, after the acclaim of Roughing It , Twain gave up his career as a journalist-reporter and began writing seriously. His fame as an American writer was immediate, especially after the publication of Innocents Abroad, a book that is still one of his most popular works. The satire that Twain uses to expose the so-called sophistication of the Old World, in contrast to old-fashioned Yankee common sense, is similar to that found ten years later in The Prince and the Pauper. But it is his novels and stories concerning the Mississippi River and the values of the people who lived along its length that have made Twain one of America's best and favorite storytellers. The humor he found there, along with its way of life, has continued to fascinate readers and embodies an almost mythic sense of what it meant to be a young American in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

After Twain turned fifty, however, his fortunes reversed themselves; his health began to fail and he faced bankruptcy; in addition, his wife became a semi-invalid, one daughter developed epilepsy, and his oldest daughter died of meningitis. Yet Twain survived. He became a critic and essayist, and he became more popular as a satirist than as a humorist. The body of work he left behind is immense and varied-poetry, sketches, journalistic pieces, political essays, novels, and short stories — all a testament to the diverse talent and energy which used the folklore of frontier America to create authentic American masterpieces of enduring value.


Tom Canty

   He is a son of a drunkard and is unlike his father in nature and behavior. Born a pauper, he dreams of becoming a prince. Though driven to the streets by John Canty, he hates to extend his hand to beg. Instead, he loves to read and, under the tutelage of a kind old priest, even learns Latin. Tom's dream of becoming a prince comes true when he exchanges roles with Edward Tudor.

Edward Tudor

-          He is the "prince" of the novel. Edward, the Prince of Wales and the son of Henry VIII, learns about the lives of his people when he exchanges roles with Tom. In the novel, Edward travels from the security of Westminster to the dingy confines of a prison cell. As he progresses in his journey, he transforms himself from an innocent and impulsive child-prince to a mature and enlightened young man ready to wisely rule a country. As a prince, Edward is pampered and protected. His father, Henry VIII, showers him with affection, and the palace staff who attend to all his needs and wants.

John Canty

-          The unloving and harsh father of Tom Canty. He keeps his son in tow solely so that young Tom can beg money for him. He is a ruffian and a drunkard who begs and steals for a living and mistreats his wife and children.

Miles Hendon

-          The dispossessed heir to the Hendon estate and Edward's good friend, guide, and protector in his adventures. He is the protector and champion of the otherwise friendless Edward. He is handsome, chivalrous, just, and capable.

King Henry VIII

-          The loving father of Edward, Prince of Wales; he is anxious to see his son installed as the heir apparent before it is discovered that the prince is mad.

Bet, Nan, and Mother Canty 

-          The sisters and mother of Tom Canty, who try to protect him from John Canty's brutality.

Father Andrew 

-          The good, retired priest who teaches Tom how to read and write and also teaches him a bit of Latin, a talent which he later uses at court.

The Lady Jane Grey, the Lady Elizabeth, and the Lady Mary

-          Half-sisters to Edward, Prince of Wales. At various times, they are kind or sarcastic to Tom Canty, who they believe to be the real prince.

The Lord Hertford and the Lord St. John 

-          Two lords of the realm in charge of overseeing the welfare of the Prince of Wales.


-           A ruffian vagabond member of the troop which holds the prince captive; later, he is beaten by the prince in a contest of skill.

Hugh Hendon 

-          Miles's brother who usurps Miles's rightful place in the family and also marries the woman Miles loves. He pretends not to recognize Miles. He is also responsible for Miles' and the young prince's being imprisoned.

Blake Andrews 

-          The old retainer of Miles Hendon's father; he comes to jail and explains the various events that have transpired since Miles Hendon has been away.

Sir Humphrey Marlow (deceased) 

-          An old friend of Miles's father, Miles hopes that the old fellow will help him regain his rightful position as a recognized member of the Hendon family.

Humphrey Marlow 

-          A young boy who is hired to take the prince's whippings. He is helpful and a very over bearing friend for because he helps young Tom Canty adapt to his role as prince.

The Hermit 

-          A mad old man who takes young Edward in and pretends to be kind to him; however, when he hears that Edward is the son of Henry VIII, the hermit is almost successful at killing the lad.


The novel opens with the announcement of the birth of Tom Canty, a pauper, and Edward Tudor, the Prince of Wales. The two boys grow up in different surroundings and are unaware of each other's existence. Tom lives in Offal Court, one of the poorest localities of London, where his drunken father forces him to beg in the streets. However, he finds time to learn Latin and read the books of Father Andrew. The old legends and histories he reads haunt his mind, and he starts visualizing himself as the prince. One day, after wandering about the streets, he walks towards the royal palace. The guards, catching him gaping through the gates, accost him, but the prince comes to the boy's rescue. He takes Tom to his chambers and inquires about his family. When Tom expresses a desire to wear princely clothes, he and the boy exchange their clothes. The striking resemblance between them surprises the two boys. Then, on an impulse, Edward storms out of his room to punish the sentinel who had behaved rudely with Tom. The guard mistakes him for Tom and pushes him out of the gate. The prince is thus thrown into the harsh world outside.

Edward experiences exhaustion and hunger as he walks through the streets of London. When he reaches Offal Court. John Canty apprehends him and, mistaking him for his son, gives him a beating. Father Andrew comes to rescue the boy from Canty's onslaughts and is struck by Canty. When Canty learns that Father Andrew is dying from his blow, he flees London with Edward in his grasp. It is the eve of a long procession down the Thames and ceremony at the Guildhall in honor of Tom, however, and, in the confusion, Edward escapes. Edward heads for the Guildhall, which he reaches as Tom is being honored there. The guards and crowds jeer him when he calls himself the prince and are about to attack him when Miles Hendon appears on the scene and rescues him.

In the meantime, the courtiers believe that Tom is Edward, and when the boy tries asserts his true identity, they dub him as mad. Tom is then taken to meet Henry VIII. When the boy fails to recognize the king, Henry VIII also expresses doubts about the sanity of the boy and advises him to relax his mind. Tom is thus forced to play the part of the prince. Slowly, he gets acquainted with the norms of the palace and reconciles himself to his situation. After the king's death, he feels the burden of responsibility on his head, but starts playing his role in earnest. He gives orders for the release of Duke of Norfolk, whom his father had condemned to death, and pardons several prisoners. The public appreciates his benevolent acts and cheer his wisdom and mercy.

Miles Hendon does not believe Edward's declaration that he is the prince, but takes pity on the boy, who he believes to be mad. He takes Edward to his lodgings, planning to bring him home to his father's estate, to which he is returning after a long absence. While he is out, however, John Canty and his associates kidnap Edward.

Edward is made to live among vagabonds and ruffians. He deplores their behavior, but learns that many of these petty criminals are the victims of the unjust and harsh laws of England. One day, he is sent to beg with Hugo, a young member of the band. When Hugo tries to cheat a passerby out of his money, Edward exposes his deceit and makes his escape. That night he takes shelter in the barn of a peasant. The next morning, he is found by the peasant family. Although the children believe Edward, the mother does not; she asks him numerous questions and has him perform various household chores in order to test his identity. When John Canty approaches the house, Edward escapes, and next takes shelter in the house of a mad hermit. The hermit tries to kill the boy, but before he can lay hands on him, John Canty and Hugo arrive and carry him away. Once again Edward is thrown in the company of thieves and beggars.

  1. Hyperbole

-          England had so longed for him, and hoped for him, and prayed God for him, that, now that he was really come, the people went nearly mad for joy.

-          Go thy way in peace; and if it return to thee at any time, forget me not, but fetch me a storm.”

-          Immediately came a succession of thundering knocks upon the cabin door.

-          The storm of cheers and laughter that swept the place was something wonderful to hear.

-          A faint tinge appeared for a moment in the lady’s cheek, and she dropped her eyes to the floor.

-          ...and beseech God to take away the stone that was in her breast and give her a human heart.

  1. Personification

-          By day, London was a sight to see, with gay banners waving from every balcony and housetop, and splendid pageants marching along.

-          When the nuts were all gone, he stumbled upon some inviting books in a closet, among them one about the etiquette of the English court.

-          The boy stood unconfused in the midst of all those surprised and questioning eyes, and answered with princely dignity.

-          The King’s face lit up with a fierce joy.

-          The winds sighed around lonely place, the mysterious voices of the nights floated by out f the distances.

-          It was a poor apartment, with a shabby bed and some odds and ends of old furniture in it, and was vaguely lighted by a couple of sickly candles

-          In his dream he reached his sordid home all out of breath, but with eyes dancing with grateful enthusiasm; cast four of his pennies into his mother’s lap and cried out.

-          The room was filled with courtiers clothed in purple mantles—the mourning colour—and with noble servants of the monarch.

-          Conversation followed; not in the thieves’ dialect of the song, for that was only used in talk when unfriendly ears might be listening.

-          The response came with such a thunder gust from the motley crew that the crazy building vibrated to the sound.

-          Now and then came the complaining howl of a dog over viewless expanses of field and forest; all sounds were remote.

-           “Oh, thou fox hearted slave, I see it all! Thou’st writ the lying letter!”

-          Gentle and beautiful young girls, with beaming eyes and fresh complexions, who may possibly put on their jewelled coronets awkwardly when the great time comes.

-          His slightest movement showers a dancing radiance all around him.

-          By-and-by, when he came to himself out of his musings, he discovered that the town was far behind him and that the day was growing old.

  1. Onomatopoeia

-          “The King dropped into inarticulate mumblings...”

-          Now the air was heavy with the hush of suspense and expectancy.

-          A groan from the King interrupted the lord at this point.

-          A sounding blow upon the Prince’s shoulder from Canty’s broad palm sent him staggering into goodwife Canty’s arms.

-          As soon as the snoring of the head of the house and his mother showed that they were asleep, the young girls crept to where the Prince lay.

-          He growled these words to the rest of the family.

-          The ceaseless flash and boom of artillery.

-          A low buzz of admiration swept through the assemblage.

-          He noted a murmurous sound, the sullen beating of rain upon the roof.

-          Startled occasionally by the soft rustling of the dry leaves overhead.

-          They seemed not to be real sounds, but only the moaning and complaining ghosts of departed ones.

-          On the floor and on the platform a deafening buzz of frantic conversation burst forth.

-          Soon there was a general buzz along the corridors.

-          The massed world on the river burst into a mighty roar of welcome.

-          The night wind was rising; it swept by in fitful gusts that made the old barn quake and rattle, then its forces died down at intervals, and went mourning and wailing around corners and projections.

-          The speech of this fantastic figure was received with an explosion of jeers and laughter.

  1. Simile

-          When he at length emerged from this master’s hands, he was a gracious figure and as pretty as a girl.

-          The shivering King made for the blankets, with as good speed as the darkness would allow.

-          “...was wedged in among a crowd of people who were watching with deep interest certain hurrying gangs of workmen who streamed in and out of Westminster Abbey, busy as ants: they were making the last preparation for the royal coronation.”

-          “If thou do but touch him, thou animated offal, I will spit thee like a goose!” said Hendon.

-          Then he cuddled himself up to the calf’s back, drew the covers up over himself and his friend, and in a minute or two was as warm and comfortable as he had ever been in the downy couches of the regal palace of Westminster.

-          The distant city lay in a luminous glow... above it rose many a slender spire into the sky, in crusted with sparkling lights wherefore in their remoteness they seemed like jewelled lances thrust aloft.

-          ...and in aspect and attitude he resembled nothing so much as grizzly monstrous spider, gloating over some hapless insect that lay abound and helpless in his web.

-          Why I know this old hall, these pictures of my ancestors, and all these things that are about us, as a child knoweth its own nursery.

-          The shining pageant still went winding like a radiant and interminable serpent down the crooked lanes of the quaint old city.

  1. Metaphor

-          And Hugh, younger than I, a mean spirit, covetous, treacherous, vicious, underhanded—a reptile.

  1. Point of View

-          Third Person Omniscient


The Great Seal

-          The Great Seal that Edward hides quickly before he and Tom exchange clothes represents his princely office.  In addition, it is the factor that verifies his identity as he is the only one who has known where the seal is.


-          Twain satirizes the adage, "Clothes make the man" as Tom and Edward are automatically re-identified after they exchange clothes, no matter what they say or do. This identification on such superficiality is clearly indicative of Twain's cynicism of society.  Clothes, too, provide people social roles and all that accompanies these roles.

  1. TONE

-          His tone was rather strict and rude; he deemed it “unbecoming and unfitting for anyone educated” to have a contrarian view.

  1. MOOD

-          The prevailing mood of the novel is serious, as the story is set in sixteenth-century England, under the reign of the autocratic ruler, Henry VIII. However, Mark Twain lightens the atmosphere of the novel considerably with his masterstrokes of irony, creating humorous scenes and eccentric characters to amuse and entertain readers.

  1. Clothes can be deceiving

-          The protagonists of the novel fail to establish their identities and are instead recognized only through the images they present. Tom Canty is accepted as a prince because he looks like one, while Edward Tudor is thought to be a pauper, since he is dressed in rags.

  1. Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance

-          Mark Twain firmly believed that environment was responsible for the behavior of a person and that with the progress of time individuals and society changed for the better.

Edward is born a prince and Tom a pauper. However, when they are forced by circumstances to reverse their roles, they behave accordingly. Edward learns to lead the life of a pauper, and Tom molds himself to the life of a prince. Environment, slowly and steadily, determines their attitudes and behavior. Edward develops a moral sense through suffering, while Tom loses a similar moral sense through luxury. In the end, they both learned that there is more to life than clothes, prosperity, honor and merit.

  1. Do not judge a book by its cover

-        Can a cliché pertain to real life and one's identity? In The Prince in the Pauper one's identity was extremely important. The Prince displayed how rags could not prove him a king, the pauper showed how wearing fine garments held him in a high position, and from these two examples expressions can be formed to speculate relations between each other and the main theme of this novel. How clothes make the man, how appearance can be deceiving is the expression that was shown throughout the story. We must bear in mind that what we see on them with our bare eyes may not conclude their personality. Sometimes, what lies beneath is greater that you never expect of it.