by Mark Twain


Zaid Faisal, National Winner
Generation’s School, Karachi
‘The Prince and the Pauper’ is a particularly apt name for this book as it highlights the antithesis between the British Imperial family and its impoverished subjects during the 1540s. Even though it was written by Mark Twain in 1881, it begins with the imminent death of King Henry VIII in his palace in London during the January of 1547. His successor is his nine-year-old son, Prince Edward Tudor, who along with the penniless Tom Canty are the protagonists of the book. The other main characters are the soldier, Miles Hendon, Tom Canty’s father, John Canty, and Lord Hertford who is Edward’s uncle. The poverty-stricken Tom accidentally meets the heir to the throne and is amazed to see the uncanny resemblance between them. The similarity is compounded by the fact that both the boys were born on the same day but have had completely different lives at opposite ends of the metropolis. Consequently, when they exchange places the prince gets to observe the harsh punitive punishments that are meted out for even trivial crimes according to his father’s judicial system. Meanwhile Tom gets a glimpse of the extravagant life of a king even as he constantly tries to explain his true identity. I think this book is an indictment of the injustice prevailing during the reign of King Henry VIII. Nevertheless, the book is peppered with suspense and is occasionally hilarious, but my favourite part of the story is when Tom Canty, the begger, meets the dying king. I would highly recommend this book to other students not only because of the sensational coronation scene or John Canty’s desperate pursuit of Prince Edward but because the book is a revelation of the severe laws inflicted upon the English populace during the sixteenth century.