All the King's Men

Jack Burden's Journey of Self-Destruction

Jack Burden, the chronicler and one of two possible protagonists of Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, is anything but a static narrator. His character is quite possibly even more dynamic than that of Willie Stark, the novel's man of the hour. Throughout the adventures and misadventures Jack encounters on the capricious road of life, he ultimately destroys his original self, tries on numerous vaguely different personalities, and ends up an entirely altered entity. Although many factors shape the destruction of Mr. Burden's primary character and the shaping of his ultimate persona, the departure of his father when he is very young, his love affair with Anne Stanton, finding evidence of Judge Irwin's wrongdoing, the Judge's suicide and the revelation that he is Jack's father, and the deaths of Willie Stark and Adam Stanton are the five monumental events that have the greatest effect on his personality.

Although he does not realize it at the time, Jack's life is first significantly impacted by an episode that occurs when he is a boy of six. Ellis Burden, the man Jack calls the "Scholarly Attorney" and believes to be his father for a sizeable portion of the novel, walks out on Jack and...

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