All the King's Men

All the King's Men "All The King's Men"

Now, we have organized a society, and we call it "Share Our Wealth Society," a society with the motto "every man a king." (Huey P. Long)

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,

All the king's horses and all the king's men,

Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again. (Nursery rhyme)

The novel's title refers both to the populist rallying cry of Huey Long, the Louisiana governor and senator on whom Willie's character is mostly based, and a nursery rhyme.

The title cleverly twists Huey Long's catchphrase both to express the hollowness of Willie's populist rhetoric and, on a level less related to Huey Long, to focus on the interactions between Willie's underlings. Willie Stark is seemingly thrust into situations by external forces far beyond his control, especially by fate, "luck," and the machinations of those surrounding him. Thus, the tale is not about the king, but as the title suggests, it is more about his men. It is also about the swirling ocean of politics and society in which Willie Stark is far adrift. After Willie's death, the lives of each of his men is highlighted as a sort of postscript to his epitaph.

Willie does act as a truly royal figure, and the narration often portrays him as being both intensely shrouded and explicitly manipulative towards his associates. Here, the reference to the nursery rhyme is appropriate as well. While Willie is thrust into many positions and directions, ultimately it is his own inner ambition and delusions of grandeur that fuel the system that results in his downfall. In the final moments of Willie Stark's life, his unbridled ambition, as well as the networks of political loyalties he has forged, are unable to save him or even forestall his "great fall."