The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain fits into the classic juvenile fiction genre and was first published in 1882. It is recommended for readers ages 12 and up.
At times I feel as if my literary education is seriously lacking. I not only completed high school but I also graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s in English. Having accomplished that one would figure that I’d read my share of classics but oddly this is not so. I’ve forever felt the need to play catch-up when it comes to the classic genre. I have such a long list and the Prince and the Pauper was one that I excitedly checked off that list as I grabbed it from the shelf and I was not disappointed.
Mark Twain records the story of the Prince and the Pauper with a preface saying that it is an old story that was passed down father to son and while it may not be true it could be true. London in the 1500s brought the birth of Edward Tudor and as it happened on the same day, in a much poorer part of London, Tom Canty. Years later while Tom was wandering around the city he happened upon the palace and Prince Edward. After an incident with the guard Edward invited Tom into the palace and there they discovered how similar they were in both size and appearance. They decided to trade clothes and were both amazed at the transformation and how one could not be distinguished from the other. Forgetting how he was oddly dressed Edward left the room only to be discovered by the previously mentioned guard and he was thrown out onto the street leaving the true Prince homeless and Tom Canty in his place. Thus begins the meat of the story. We read about Edward’s adventures and how he manages to find Tom’s family and only his mother notices the difference after a strange test. Edward struggles through life as a pauper and learns a lot about his kingdom and the people he is one day to rule. With the help of a loyal protector he manages to escape Tom’s unruly father and formulate a plan to retake his kingdom. Meanwhile Tom is learning what it means to be a Prince. He quickly tires of all the pomp and ceremony. In spite of his efforts to try and correct the mistake and find the true Prince no one believes him and many are convinced he has gone mad and spend their time trying to correct his lapse in memory and manners. It is upon the death of the King and the coronation ceremony that the truth comes out and things are restored as they should be however, both boys are profoundly changed from the experience and become better in their own sphere. The Prince and the Pauper makes the reader think and question the values and ways of society. Even though it was written over one hundred years ago it is still amazingly applicable today making people think about how a simple accident of birth created two strikingly different people but being subtly switched they are much the same.