In its 130-year history, The Prince and the Pauper has held a legacy of being one of Mark Twain's most-popular works, but it has often been dismissed as a children's book or simplistic tale, a likely result of popular culture presentations of the narrative. A survey of the many adaptations of the novel reveals an apparent case of diminishing returns, with successive versions connecting less to Clemens's original vision, and the plot reduced to an outline in which lookalikes switch places and discover some variation of the idea that the grass is not truly greener on the other side. Where more serious versions reveal the social themes of the novel, many adaptations replace the potential for mature commentary with a simplistic comedy of errors. A review of The Prince and the Pauper through its pop cultural transformations reveals the popularity of the story while also showing filmmakers' tendencies to reshape Twain's narrative.

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