26 Jan 2011
All the King’s Men is a story regarding political Stark in the South during the 1930’s. Willie Stark, rises from being a poor man to being the governor of his home state. After becoming governor, he then becomes his state’s most powerful political figure. His enemies do not become compliant to him out of respect but because he bullies them into submission. He begins to help the poor by implementing a series of taxes that strain the rich but help the lower class. The story is not only about Willie Stark but also about Jack Burden who becomes Stark’s right hand man. Burden was raised into an aristocratic dynasty but turns his back on it in order to help Stark. Stark forces Burden to go against his beliefs in consequence, responsibility and motivation. Stark asks Burden to look for secrets regarding a Judge in the state by the name of Judge Irwin who was a father figure from Burden’s childhood.
All the King’s Men is primarily about the political and moral corruption of a Deep South state, set in the environment of the great depression era. Willie Stark, the state’s governor, rises from poverty to become the state’s governor. His corruption shows when, though using his power to help the poor, he begins abusing his authority and ends up hurting people. The fundamental flaw of Stark’s moral philosophy is his belief that everyone and everything is bad, except himself. In his mind, Willie sees nothing amiss about having numerous affairs with other woman while being married to Lucy Stark who is constantly disappointed in Willie’s lack of moral fortitude. His corruption is further revealed when he orders Jack Burden, Willie’s right hand man (and primary narrator of the story), to dig up damaging secrets on Judge Montague Irwin, the former State Attorney General, due to his support of one of Stark’s critics. Although Burden is very intelligent, he also has a curious lack of ambition that Willie uses to his advantage.
Author Robert Penn Warren began work on All the King’s Men during his residency in Italy, forming it originally as a verse (or poetic) drama under the name Proud Flesh. Coming to the realization that the material did not lend itself well to such form, Warren changed course and used the concept to develop the novel now seen as a political drama classic of American literature. Essay opportunities abound, ranging from exploration of the political tendency towards corruption to the manner in which women in political circles even today are seen as objects of sexuality, often becoming victims of exploitation by rich and/or powerful figures.
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