Books by Mark Twain always have a literary element that is simply put yet uniquely intriguing. As he describes the lifestyle differences between the main characters in The Prince and the Pauper, Twain does not leave out circumstances and situations which define these two.
For example, Twain opens the novel by describing the events surrounding the birth of two different people during this time period. He first describes the birth of Edward, the prince of Wales.
When Prince Edward is born all of England rejoices:
"There was no talk in all England but of the new baby, Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales, who lay lapped in silks and satins, unconscious of all this fuss, and not knowing that great lords and ladies were tending over him-and not caring either...All England had so longed for him, hoped for him, and prayed God for him, that now he had really come, the people went mad for joy."
An interesting historical note here is the fact that Prince Edward was the heir that Henry VIII hurled the entire country into chaos over, starting with his divorce from Queen Catherine of Aragon to the Act of Supremacy.
Another note on King Henry VIII that Mark Twain tastefully portrays is that, in the eyes of Edward, the king is a very loving father. But Edward is surprised to learn when he is playing Tom's part, that the king is not liked by his subjects for his already mentioned faults.
Tom Canty is a poor pauper boy. Although he is just as important in God's eyes as Edward, his birth is dreaded by all those surrounding him in the poor house in which he lives.
Mark Twain describes his house as:
"...small, decayed, and rickety, but it was packed full of wretchedly poor families. Canty’s tribe occupied a room on the third floor...The mother and father had a sort of bedstead in the corner; but Tom, his grandmother, and his two sisters, Bet and Nan were not restricted-they had all the floor to themselves, and might sleep where they chose."
Although living in luxury all his life, Edward longs for just one chance to get dirty and play with other boys his age. One day, he seizes his chance when he sees a poor beggar boy and lets him into the palace.
Tom Canty is a dreamer. He often dreams he is a royal prince. Anyone can imagine his joy when, by mere chance, he sees a real life prince - Prince Edward!
Edward gets carried away with the tales of fun and mud that Tom tells him. It is then that he talks Tom into trading his rags for Edward’s fine garments.
This is where Edward makes his great mistake.
Tom and Edward are only going to play the roles of each other for a day but then everything gets confused and they both get dragged into a lifestyle which they know nothing about for not one day but for many. Will they ever get back to their proper places?
This is a story of comedy and tragedy, faithfulness and betrayal, friendship and hatred, prisons and royal palaces.
Although Edward’s parts are more amusing as he is going about claiming his royalty and being laughed at and mocked, Tom’s parts are also very entertaining as he has never had luxury and does silly things like crack nuts with the royal seal and things of that sort.
This is a great story and, like all books by Mark Twain, it is hilarious!