All the King's Men Study Guide

All the King's Men Study Guide

Original title:
All the King’s Men

Despite the name of the novel is taken from the nursery rhyme, the plotline is dramatic and full of tragic events. The name has a lot to deal with the narrative - the book tells us about the life of the cynical and liberal populist of American South in 1930s, Willie Stark. This is the story of his rising to power and turning from somewhat idealistic lawyer to the magnificent, overly charismatic and ruthless governor. Even his nickname, Kingfish, and other minor characters referring to him as “boss” emphasis his role as King in this story.

Willie’s story is told by an idealistic journalist, Jack Burden. It is very interesting to follow Jack’s narrative style: at first humorous and detached, but, as he becomes more and more involved into Stark’s story and learns new facts about him, we see the drastic changes. Jack starts to take his work much more personal and, strangely, his fascination by Willie’s persona is now mixed with other feelings. Burden identifies himself with Stark and their lives become interwoven almost in an uncanny way, especially while the girl Jack loved for all his life, Anne Stanton, gets involved into their common story.

The novel is full of sudden revelations, unexpected turns and bitter philosophy of broken people. We learn that the shining facade may hide mysteries that should not be revealed. The clash of faith and ideals with reality gives birth to the new brand of nihilism some characters embrace to avoid being hurt by the new tragic events. Until the very end we don’t know if at least someone of the character will be able to return to their previous, unscarred, idealistic selves.

The main motif of the book is actions and consequences. Nothing goes away forever, but leaves a trace that changes the life of the person who did this. It is impossible just to observe someone’s story from afar and not get involved into it: the characters now have to bear responsibility for the actions of each other and face the inevitable consequences. They all become “the King’s men”, gathered around Willie Stark and their actions might lead to such a downfall that no one and nothing will be able to put them together again.

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All the King's Men Quotes with Page Number

“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if...

All the Kings Men Thesis Paper

In the novel, All the King’s Men written by Robert Penn Warren, Jack Burden and Willie Stark are paired as the two main characters. All the King’s Men is a unique novel because both Jack Burden and Willie Stark are considered dynamic characters, with each of them undergoing a...

All the King's Men - the Dialectical Journal

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In All The Kings Men, Jack, finds for his dissertation to get his PhD, he writes on his great uncle, Cass Mastern. Cass Mastern was a poor when he was born, but his brother, becoming rich from cotton plantations, came back and supported Cass financially. By the suggestion from Jefferson Davis, he...

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