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All The Kings Men Essays

1. Discuss the relevance of the title, All the King's Men, to the rest of the novel.
This title is an echo of the nursery rhyme, where 'all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again'. The king's men are, in this instance, the supporters and staff of Willie once he is in power. His assassination is his literal end, but his moral downfall prefigures how he is ultimately beyond saving. All the king's men could not 'put him together again' either morally (when he decides to employ Larson to avoid blackmail) or physically (with his death).

The reference to king in the title also foreshadows Willie's rise to demagogue. His men follow his orders and Jack in particular is blind to the concept of responsibility whilst in his employ. Willie's status as king (or rather Governor of Louisiana) is comparable to that of a fascist, populist ruler who becomes so embroiled in his role that democracy is forgotten.

2. Consider the importance of the concept of truth in this work.
Truth and corruption are two main themes of this novel and it is through the changes and development in Jack that the readers are able to see that truth is conclusively preferred. In the earlier chapters, the younger Jack is characteristically incapable of assuming responsibility and cannot understand Cass Mastern's actions. For Jack, the truth was only evident in facts.

It is in the final chapter that the readers are able to observe how Jack in the present day understands that truth is also tempered by the connections people have with each other. He finally understands the spider web theory, which Mastern alludes to, and senses the link between truth and moral welfare.

3. Analyze the changes that Willie Stark undergoes.
The readers see Willie through Jack's gaze and he is first observed by him in an informal meeting in the back room of Slade's pool hall. When looking back, Jack thinks of him at this time as Cousin Willie - an innocent but independent man who works as the County Treasurer. He barely ever drinks alcohol and is devoted to his schoolteacher wife, Lucy.

After finally realising that he has been used as a 'sap' in his initial attempt at running for Governor, the changes in Willie become more apparent. From this point he is more jaded about the way politics works and once he finally becomes Governor he embraces the same machinery and outlook that fooled him into thinking he had been considered a worthy leader the first time.

4. To what extent is corruption criticized in this novel?
The ambiguity of the narrator, Jack Burden, means that this novel is, for the most part, reluctant in its outright condemnation of a corrupt leader. As a PhD student and whilst working for Willie, it is possible to see that this Jack was unable to fully appreciate the concepts of moral responsibility and preferred facts instead.

The assassination of Willie and Jack's developed awareness of how actions are connected to other actions (as with Mastern's spider web analogy) entail that Jack condemns irresponsibility in its concluding passages. It is imperative to argue, however, that this novel does not offer a damning indictment of corruption as such; it is subtle and shifting in its portrayal of Willie and Jack's attraction to power.

5. Analyze the parent/child relationship in All the King's Men.
The relationship between parent and child is one of the main narrative strands of this novel. Jack's fraught relationship with his mother only becomes resolved in the final chapter when Jack recognizes that his mother is capable of love after all.

It is the bond between father and son, however, which has a central role in the narrative. His relationship with Ellis Burden, who he presumes is his father until the death of Judge Irwin, has been similarly difficult. A glimpse of such difficulties is observable when Jack visits Ellis in his apartment and Jack's jealousy is revealed as Ellis cares for George. The rivalry and antagonism of the son toward the father are evident and this is emphasized when Jack researches Judge Irwin's past for 'dirt'.

Although Jack is unaware at this point that the Judge is his biological father, he has regarded him as a father figure since Ellis left the marital home when Jack was aged six.

These instances of rivalry are reminiscent of the Oedipal myth, which Freud drew upon in his concept of the Oedipal complex. The antagonism between the father and son is a typical, intergenerational conflict that prefigures the individuation of the male child.

All The King’s Men

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The title of the book is All The King’s Men and the Publication date for this book is 1996.

The author Robert Penn Warren was a very famous author. His life was full of many achievements that helped him become recognized. He even won the Pulitzer Prize for this book All The King’s Men. Warren was inspired to write this book because when he was younger he lived in the state of Louisiana and around this time Huey P. Long was already an established politician. Warren started out writing poetry but then turned to writing novels. His works are loved and cherished by many and even used in today’s schools. It is safe to say that Robert Penn Warren was one of America’s most brilliant writers.

This book takes place in the southern part of the United States in the 1930s. Although Warren never reveals the true setting of this book, one can conclude that this took place in Louisiana seeing how Warren became inspired in that state by a person who is mirrored in this very book. Part of this novel is in Mason City. Another place in this novel is Burden’s Landing Jack , the main character, goes there many times because this is his hometown.

This novel is mainly about the rise and fall of the political figure Willie Stark told through the eyes of his business associate and friend Jack Burden. Willie stark in his early political career is all for helping the people and trying to do what is best for them. As he gains power and the trust of his people he soon becomes corrupt by the evils of success.


Jack Burden- He is the narrator of this story and he is the companion of Willie Stark. He works at a newspaper company before getting a job from Willie after they become acquainted . Readers will learn his story while they are learning about the life of Willie.

Willie Stark-He becomes a treasurer of Mason City and from there his political career takes flight. After becoming a treasurer Stark decides to study law and become a lawyer. After he receives some success he runs for governor and becomes a power-hungry politician.

Sadie Burke-She was an employee and mistress of Willie Stark. She has a crude behavior and has an outspoken personality. Later she becomes very intolerant in all the women Stark is with.

Two reoccurring motifs and symbols are The Great Sleep and the Hospital.

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Penn Warren         Political Career         Study Law         Willie         Main Character         Companion         Publication         Louisiana        

The Great Sleep represents escaping from the world. It is about forgetting all issues and responsibilities that we all have. The Hospital represents Willie’s last strive to do something good for the people.

Two major themes of this book are power corrupts those who have it and good comes from bad. Power corrupts those who have it means that when you can control people you want to keep that power and you will do whatever it takes to keep it. Good comes from bad means that in order to do good sometimes you have to do bad just like to win sometimes you have to cheat.

“……A diamond ain’t a thing in the world but a piece of dirt that got awful hot. And God-a-Mighty picked up a handful of dirt and blew on it and made you and me…….It all depends on what you do with that dirt.” page 45
“……..And believing that Willie Stark was a great man, I could think better of all other people, and of myself. At the same I could more surely condemn myself.” page 427 “This has been the story of Willie Stark, but it is my story, too. For I have a story. It is the story of a man who lived in the world and to him the world looked one way for a long time and then it looked another and a very different way…..” page 435

The style of Robert Penn Warren’s writing is to explain everything in details so that the reader will understand the meaning of things. He likes to give many examples and gives many ways of looking at things.

Warren’s tone is that he makes it seem that all of his characters are thinking something other than what they are saying. He also feels there is something wrong with all of his characters.

The significance of the point of view in this book is that because it is through the eyes of Jack Burden you get to see how he changes and all of his thoughts and actions and you receive what Jack thinks of Willie Stark.

The structure of this work was made so that there were many flashbacks and each chapter began a new set of years. This makes the past important on what the future has in store for its readers even though you might get the future first.

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