All the King's Men
Author: Robert Penn Warren
‘All the King's Men’, is the story of the rise and fall of Willie Stark, a political titan in the Deep South, who during the 1930s rose from hardscrabble poverty to become the governor of his state, and ultimately it’s most powerful political figure. The story goes on to say how Willie, the anti-hero blackmails and bullies his enemies into submission, and using his good office institutes a radical series of liberal reforms which are designed to tax the rich and ease the burden of the state's poor farmers. This leads to a conflict of personalities which includes the notable former governor, Sam MacMurfee, and other power mongers.
Jack Burden, the scion of one of the state's aristocratic dynasties, turns his back on his genteel upbringing, against the wishes of his well-wishers, which includes the influential Judge Irwin. Throwing caution to wind, Jack joins Willie on his journey to stardom, earning him the name as, Willie’s right hand. Willie takes advantage of Jack’s talent as a historical researcher to dig up the unpleasant secrets of his enemies, using this to blackmail and provocation. Cynical and lacking in ambition as he is, Jack walks away from many of his past interests; the dissertation of American History, and marriage to Anne Stanton, the daughter of a former governor of the state.
The scene when Willie asks Jack to look for skeletons in the closet of Judge Irwin, Jack is forced to confront his ideas concerning consequence, responsibility, and motivation. He discovers that Judge Irwin had accepted a bribe, and that Governor Stanton, his would-be father-in-law, had covered it up, resulting in Judge Irwin's suicide. The story then turns to another interesting episode of Adam Stanton, Anne’s brother, taking up the directorship of a new hospital being built by Willie. The vicious turn of events leads Willie to Anne, who unsuspectingly has an affair leading to his ultimate murder. Jack, with nothing to gain returns, an empty man.
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