All the Kings Men, by Robert Penn Warren is the story of a political icon in the 1930’s.Rising from a poverty-stricken home to become governor of the state was not an easy life.Politics is a game of willpower and manipulation, not ideals (Warren 30).Willie puts forth a great deal of energy into keeping his powerful political position.By the use of blackmail and bullying, he coaxes his enemies into submission.His most fearful enemy is Sam MacMurfee; he constantly tries to pull Willie down off his political throne.The author puts emphasis on the fact that Willie starts out a good, honest man opposed to a system filled with blackmail, bribery, and trickery; but he is ultimately forced to master it. All the Kings Men is also the story of Jack Burden, Willie’s right hand man.Jack turns away from his good-natured upbringing, joins Willies rough group of allies and hired thugs, and just walks away from all his past interests.Jack’s job is to use his gifts as a historical researcher to dig up information and secrets of Willie’s enemies.Jack struggles with the idea of responsibility.He attempts to avoid the idea that actions have consequences, and individuals are responsible for those consequences.Jack considers himself to be an idealist. Willie makes a point to be in control of every situation.From the time his son gets a woman pregnant to his political dynasty.Jack’sfirst love, Anne Stanton, begins an affair with Willie.When her brother Adam finds out, he murders Willie in a rage.That would be the only situation in which Willie had no control.After the death of Willie, Jack removes himself from politics.He rethinks his idea that no individual can be responsible for the consequences of their actions; and eventually marries Anne Stanton.
An important theme in the novel was reputation.Being a politician, Willie was constantly in the public eye, and greatly concerned with how the people perceived him….
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Throughout All the King’s Men, history plays an important role in the motivations and lives of all the characters. History’s importance is most noticeable, not surprisingly, in the story main characters – Willie Stark and Jack Burden – whose lives focus on and, in some cases, depend upon history and how they relate themselves to it. While Willie Stark views history as a tool with which to manipulate people for his own ends, an attitude resulting in his own destruction, Jack Burden’s view of history changes over time and eventually allows him to accept his relationship to the past and, therefore, present. Since each man has such a differing view it is no wonder that history becomes important to each in different ways. Willie Stark must support his entire empire in a world of enemies and corruption, to do this he relies on the past to provide him with the foundation. “Dirt’s a funny thing,” the Boss said. “Come to think of it, there ain’t a thing but dirt on this God’s green globe except what’s under water, and that’s dirt too. It’s dirt makes the grass grow. A diamond ain’t a thing in the world but a piece of dirt that got awful hot. God-a-Mighty picked up a handful of dirt and blew on it and made you and me and George Washington and mankind blessed in faculty and apprehension. It all depends on what you do with the In this case, Stark is referring to the past as dirt – something to be used in many ways. The way he chooses to use it of course is as blackmail; “Then he would lean suddenly forward, at the man, and say, not slow and easy now, ‘God damn you, do you know what I can do to you?’ And he could too. For he had the goods.” Thus history is important to Stark as the device by which he maintains power. Both Stark and Burden use history differently according to the way it figures into their lives. To Stark, ultimate power being paramount, history is a thing to be used in the manipulation of …