All the King's Men Summary

The book “All the King’s Men” is a classic with a political and dramatic storyline that brings in a lot of stories about the rise and fall of Willie’s empire. It basically shows the story based on the view point of Jack, one of Willie’s closest and trustworthy men. The story unfolds as the women in the game bring in twists while love and prejudice break loose during the elections.

The novel starts as Sugar-Boy drives down Highway 58 in Willie’s Cadillac as he drives them into Manson City. Pressmen and photographers follow the car. It is the summer of 1936. Willie enters a drug store as stalkers pressuring him for a speech follow him and he says he is here to see ‘Pappy’. He gives a speech and the crowd applauds. On his way back, Jack flashbacks to when he was a reporter at Chronicle. At the farm, Willie poses for the photographers while Jack watches the sunset as he leans on the fences. After dinner, Willie announces that the three of them are going for a drive to Judge Irwin’s place, where they end up getting insulted. While driving back to Manson city, Willie orders Jack to find some dirt on the judge.

Jack remembers how Willie rose to power while he was the Manson Country Treasurer when he got involved with the contract for the new school building. An award-giving ceremony was going on and Willie had suggested giving in to the lowest bidder. After quitting the job, he joined his father’s firm, passed the bar exam and set up his own practice. Soon, he won the election under the flag of the Democratic Party. Willie continued to gain fame in the law firms. On the other hand, Jack quit his job and didn’t get to see Willie until the next election. He eventually ended up in depression and went into a period he called the ‘’The Great Sleep’’. Willie was elected governor at some point. Sadie Burke called Jack up saying that the boss wanted to see him next morning at ten. Willie Stark wanted him to work for him for $3,600 per year. Jack accepted the offer and the next night, they had dinner at the Governor’s mansion.

Jack Burden plans to pay a visit to his mother at Burden’s Landing. His mother dislikes his job and Theodore Murrell a.k.a. The Young Executive keeps asking him rather awkward questions about politics. Jack remembers how his father had left and his mother married the men that came along after him up till The Young Executive. This leads to more flashbacks from the past. That night, he visits Judge Irwin’s house with Theodore and his mother for a party. There, he is compelled to talk to Miss Dumonde but he drops Sadie Burke home. While driving home, he remembers how his father had brought his mother back home. Willie manages to stop a protest via blackmailing and soon wins the election. Next, Jack reflects upon Willie’s growing interest in Sadie and his fading love for Lucy.

While researching Judge Irwin, Jack suddenly starts to reminisce about his college days. He begins to remember about how he was leading a fine graduate life while doing his Ph.D. in American History at State University. He thinks about his roommates, his drinking times and the pieces he wrote for his uncle’s paper. His uncle, Cass Mastern, had an illicit love affair with Annabelle Trice. Later on, when his friend and Annabelle’s husband, Duncan Trice came to know about it, Duncan shot himself. When, Phebe, one of his slaves, gets the ring and comes to know about it, Annabelle sells her off to a different owner. Next, Cass tries to find and retrieve Phebe but fails to do so. Finally, he joins the Confederate army and dies there. Jack feels disturbed about Cass Mastern’s acts.

Jack starts to dig deeper into the history of Judge Irwin. He wants to know what Irwin longs the most. Meanwhile, he pays a visit to his father, the scholar who refuses to answer his questions. He luckily picks up a lead from the Stantons who tell him that the Judge went from being poor to a rich man by marrying a wealthy lady. Jack attends one of Tommy’s football matches. Willie praises Tommy for his performance. Tiny Duffy informs Jack that Willie is spending a huge amount of money into building a hospital. Later, he switches his concentration to the judge again and finds out that he was unable to pay mortgage that has made him poor for the time being. He discovers his contributions to the American Electric Power Company and how he had saved a sister concern of the company.

Tommy crashes his car into a tree while he is with a young girl. Her father, when he tries to protest, gets shut down by various threats. Lucy worries about Tommy’s lifestyle but Willie disagrees to curb Tommy’s habit. Meanwhile, Willie concentrates completely in his million-dollar project of building a hospital. Tiny Duffy throws him an offer that will support both his project and his election. He voraciously turns the offer down. He makes some very lucrative offers to Adam and Anne Stanton to entice him into being the director of the hospital. Jack emotionally blackmails Anne to convince Adam. Willie declares that he would be providing free medical care. Jack is unable to figure out how Anne came to know about the offer. Sadie turns out to be the one who had told Adam about the offer. Sadie had done this, as Anne had become Willie’s new mistress.

Jack takes a break and travels to the west. He spends a few days at California and Long Beach. Next, he reminisces about his past with Anne. He remembers how intense of a feeling of love they had had when he was twenty-one and Anne was seventeen. He remembers how they were together all summer; how she valued her body as something sacred and how they had almost made love. He had even proposed to her for marriage but she had refused him. Then he remembers how the intensity had decreased with distance that led him to move on and get married to a lady named Lois who was less interesting for conservations and more interesting for sex. Their marriage broke. He believes that Anne had never got married to him despite many failed engagements mainly because he lacked some confidence that Willie has.

Jack returns home to the east. On the way, at a gas station, he picks up an old man who believes that life was better in the west. The old man seems to have an unnoticed twitch in his face. This reminds him of how many things in life happen for no particular reason. Anne calls up Jack to tell him that Hubert Coffee, to which he reacted violently and resigned, had offered Adam a bribe. When Anne asks Jack to convince Adam to accept the bribe, he plans on arresting Hubert for attempted bribe. Next, Tom impregnates Marvin’s daughter. Marvin demands to win the election or make Tom marry his daughter but Willie plans on using Judge Irwin to turn the tables. He goes to Burden’s landing and tries to convince the Judge with blackmail but fails to convince him. Soon after that the judge commits suicide and Jack realizes that Irwin was his father.

Jack is put to a desk job. Willie is forced to give the contract to Gummy Larson since he is the only person who can fend off the MacMurfees and Marvin. Willie gets drunk after the deal and creates a ruckus. Tom gets into more fights and is finally injured badly during game time. The State wins easily. Jack visits Tom and then, he goes to the office to find Sadie there. Jack is called to bring Lucy and Adam comes in to report that two of Tom’s vertebrae have been fractured. They wait for surgery, which saves Tom’s life but leaves him paralyzed. Just before this blow ends, Adam comes to know about Anne and Willie’s relationship. Adam believes that he was given the directorship due to the affair. Adam goes crazy and just when they find him, he shoots Willie and gets shot back by Sugar-Boy. Both Adam and Willie die.

Adam and Willie’s funeral is done with. Jack ends up spending time with Anne in silence. They talk about nothing until one day when he asks Anne about how Adam had found out about her and Willie. It turns out that it was Tiny Duffy who had done this dirty job using the emotions of Sadie Burke. Tiny offers Jack his job back to which he responds negatively and tells him that Duffy had a role in Willie’s death. Somehow, he does not wish to drag the matter for Anne’s sake. He then almost plans on telling it to Sugar-Boy but in the end, he doesn’t. He visits his mother who breaks up with Theodore. He marries Anne and they decide to live in Burden’s Landing.