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The Prince and the Pauper. Throughout the novel, The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain accentuates the concepts of economic inequality, separation of social classes, and religious conflict in sixteenth-century England. In the novel, Tom Canty is a poor boy born into a poor family living in a poor part of town. He has always dreamed of living as royalty and getting out of his social situation. During his travels throughout England he comes into contact with the Prince, Edward Tudor, who wants to have the freedom of not being a prince. Tom and Edward begin to discover how much they look alike and decide to exchange clothing. This causes them to be misplaced in each other's lives and experience life as a member of utterly different and completely opposite social and economic classes. Both Tom and Edward deal with difficulties in each other's lives and Edward realizes the religious injustice going on and pledges that he will fix it when he returns to the rightful throne.
In sixteenth-century England the economic disparity is vast and Tom and Edward are on opposite ends. Tom was coming from a very poor lifestyle and became a prince who was very wealthy. Edward was the Prince and now is extremely impoverished and lambasted everywhere he goes. While the noble class is a group of people who inherit their riches and lands, the paupers and peasants manage to gain a few coins by begging but have no regular income ("Prince"). This alone provides enough information to convey to the read the huge gap between the high and low economic classes; however, Twain shows many others examples of this aspect.
Typically, the noble class is wealthy; although a nobleman may squander his wealth, he cannot lose the title to which he was born. By the same token, the lowest class is one marked by dire poverty, but someone from the lowest class of society might find a way to provide a living for himself. Yet no amount of wealth can make him a noble. The poorest of the poor are treated by everyone else with extreme derision. ("Prince")
The amount of money doesn't affect the stature of the individual. The paupers and peasants cannot earn the status of a noble or lose their nobility by squandering their wealth. The poor will always be treated discourteously and the nobles will always be respected in civilization. Although the gap between the two economic classes is wide, there is a smaller, third class presented in the novel though not discussed in detail. This class consists of business owners, such as innkeepers and merchants, who are neither wealthy nobles nor ignorant beggars ("Prince").
This smaller third class is very a minute one compared to the wealthy and the poor class of London. There was no leaving the noble class, they were born into it. The poor, however, could move up into the smaller middle class by looking for work. Twain was very thorough while analyzing history of the time period depicted in The Prince the Pauper. "His research for the book was surprisingly extensive. He investigated not only general histories of England but also works dealing more narrowly with English laws, customs and the economy" ("Three"). Twain took the time to see where the economy stood during the sixteenth-century to demonstrate the hardships of the people living in London.
The society of the day is organized around the idea of a class system. Throughout the undertakings of Tom and Edward, it is apparent that the social differentiation is a large portion of the society they live in. It is stated that the "â€¦prince's world, that of the noble class, is associated with luxury, ease, and comfort, while Tom's world is filled with drunkenness, violence, and ignorance" ("Prince"). The noble class, from the perspective of the poor, is unreachable and almost godlike in their eyes. While the lower class, from the perspective of the nobles, is doglike and worthless. However, the noble class isn't perfect and the lower class isn't atrocious. While the majority of the lower class is violent, it includes some kind and gentle people. The noble class endures the torturous punishments of the King, such as frequent ordering of executions ("Prince"). Being the Prince has many responsibilities along with the luxuries so he does not have the opportunities to be a kid with the other children. When Edward and Tom are talking about each other's lifestyles "â€¦Tom describes the games and pastimes of the poor, and Edward yearns to experience them" (Morris). The social classes are so far separated that the Prince of Wales wanted to have the chance to go play games as a kid and the poor kid from Offal Court wanted to have the opportunity to be the Prince. To put theses social classes in perspective, it is said that "[there] was no talk in all England but of the baby, Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales, who lay lapped in silks and satins", meanwhile "there was no talk about the other baby, Tom Canty, lapped in his poor ragsâ€¦" (Twain 1). Both boys were born into opposite social statures and both wanted to obtain attributes of the other. They both learn many things in their adventures of exchanging lives and "Edward goes on to use his experience on the streets of London to right many of the social wrongs of England" ("Overview"). Twain also reflects some of his life experiences in the novel, from being a worker on a steamboat and living along the Mississippi to making large sums of money writing books. Twain has been on both ends of the social classes depicted in the novel.
The novel also exemplifies religious conflict in the sixteenth-century. Edward hints at his prejudice towards the Roman Catholic Church of which his half sister Mary, who is a part of and who continually attempts to reconnect England with the Roman Catholic Church that Edward would continue to sever this bond, following his father's lead ("Prince"). Edward speaks down on Mary because of how involved she is with the church as he believes that she is foolish for putting so much faith into it. "In addition to the prejudicial treatment the lower class receives, religious conflict leads to injustices inflicted on various groups as well"("Prince"). When King Henry broke from the church the Catholics and Protestants broke into many conflicts including the pope creating his own church which caused the Protestant Reformation. Edward doesn't believe that they should be with the Roman Catholic Church because of his father. The Hermit is a character that causes a great deal of religious conflict. "The Hermit claims to be an archangel and is devoured by his thwarted ambition to be appointed Pope. He blames King Henry, who, in severing England's official ties to the Roman Catholic Church, essentially [in the Hermit's thinking] prevented his rise to this powerful Catholic position" ("Prince"). The Hermit believes that with Henry preventing him to the rise of power, that the Catholic population as a whole had failed him. The Hermit was abandoned and insane and had no faith in the King, a feeling that resonated among many Englishmen, both Protestant and Catholic. Seeing as the nobles were divided religiously, it had the same affect on the people and classes of the time which caused conflict and intolerance. With the nobles divided, so was the authority of the people, and this generated prodigious amounts of religious tension and intolerance.
The Prince and the Pauper gives us a clear perspective of the economic disparity, social classes, and the religious conflict of the sixteenth-century. The economic inequality is opposite at either end of the difference between the two sides. The aperture between the noble class and the lower class is immense both with large amounts of the population while the middle class makes up very little. The religious conflict during the time period begins with the break of the church and the king which causes the Protestants and Catholics to go on an outrage with one another. Twain depicts the enormous disparities between the prince's way of life and that of the pauper ("Prince"). Twain gives the reader a vivid picture of the issues going on in everyday life in the sixteenth-century and demonstrates how Tom and Edward decided to overcome these conflicts in their society.