All the King’s Men Commentary #1 We left the bay, and lost the salt, sad, sweet, fishy smell of the tidelands out of our nostrils. We headed north again. It was darker now. The ground mist lay heavier on the fields, and in the dips of the road the mist frayed out over the slab and blunted the headlights. Now and then a pair of eyes would burn at us out of the dark ahead.
I knew that they were the eyes of a cow-a poor dear stoic old cow with a cud, standing on the highway shoulder, for there wasn’t any stock law- but her eyes burned at us out of the dark as though her skull were full of blazing molten metal like blood and we could see inside the skull into that bloody hot brightness in that moment when the reflection was right before we picked up her shape, which is so perfectly formed to be pelted with clods, and knew what she was and knew that inside that unlovely knotty head there wasn’t anything but a handful of coldly coagulated gray mess in which something slow happened as we went by.
We were something slow happening inside the cold brain of a cow. That’s what the cow would say if she were a brass-bound Idealist like little Jackie Burden. The Boss said, “Well, Jackie, it looks like you got a job cut out for you. ” And I said, “Callahan? ” And he said, “Nope, Irwin. ” And I said, “I don’t reckon you will find anything on Irwin. ” And he said, “You find it. ” We bored on into the dark for another twenty miles and eighteen minutes. The ectoplasmic fingers of the mist reached out of the swamp, threading out from the blackness of the cypresses, to snag us, but didn’t have any luck.
A possum came out of the swamp, threading out from the blackness of the cypresses, to snag us, but didn’t have any luck. A possum came out of the swamp and started across the road and might have made it, too, if Sugar-Boy hadn’t been too quick for him. Sugar-Boy just shaded the steering wheel delicately to the left, just a fraction. There wasn’t even a jounce or twitch, but something thumped against the underside of the left front fender, and Sugar-Boy said, “The b-b-b-b-bas-tud. ” Sugar-Boy could thread a needle with that Cadillac.
At about the end of that eighteen minutes and twenty miles, I said: “But suppose I don’t find anything before election day? ” The Boss said, “To hell with election day. I can deliver Masters prepaid, special handling. But if it takes ten years, you find it. ” We clocked off five miles more, and I said, “But suppose there isn’t anything to find. ” And the Boss said, “There is always something. ” And I said, “Maybe not on the Judge. ” And he said, “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud.
There is always something. Two miles more, and he said, “And make it stick. ” And that was all a good while ago. Color Key: Simile Characterization Imagery Personification Jack Burden, the narrator of the novel, has a request by the Boss to dig into Judge Irwin’s past “and make it stick. ” The journey of finding something on him builds Jack’s character and foreshadows the death of some of his friends. As they are coming back from the visit to Judge Irwin’s house, they encounter cows on the road.
Jack Burden looks into the burning eyes of “a poor dear stoic old cow” whose skull was of “blazing molten metal,” and Jack says that the cow is “a brass-bound Idealist like little Jackie Burden” like a slow thought in her brain. Jack Burden questions the visit to Judge Irwin’s house thinking that there was no sin made by him and identifies himself as an idealist. Because of Jack’s long relationship with the judge, he questions if there is really anything to find about him.
The Boss convinces him that “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he [passes it] from the stink [of the diaper] to the stench of the shroud. There is always, something,” leaves and says “And make it stick. ” The last paragraph shows that the future of the book is foreshadowed to the reader with Jack saying, “And that was all a good while ago. ” It all shows that Jack Burden is certainly not a weak character because he eventually does find something on the judge like the Boss said. The dirt that he found stuck so good that it was great for Robert Penn Warren to put the conclusion in the beginning of the book.