All the King's Men: Essay Q&A
1. Discuss the relevance of the title, All the King's Men, to the rest of the novel.
The reference to king in the title also foreshadows Willie's rise to demagogue. His men follow his orders and Jack in particular is blind to the concept of responsibility whilst in his employ. Willie's status as king (or rather Governor of Louisiana) is comparable to that of a fascist, populist ruler who becomes so embroiled in his role that democracy is forgotten.
2. Consider the importance of the concept of truth in this work.
It is in the final chapter that the readers are able to observe how Jack in the present day understands that truth is also tempered by the connections people have with each other. He finally understands the spider web theory, which Mastern alludes to, and senses the link between truth and moral welfare.
3. Analyze the changes that Willie Stark undergoes.
After finally realising that he has been used as a 'sap' in his initial attempt at running for Governor, the changes in Willie become more apparent. From this point he is more jaded about the way politics works and once he finally becomes Governor he embraces the same machinery and outlook that fooled him into thinking he had been considered a worthy leader the first time.
4. To what extent is corruption criticized in this novel?
The assassination of Willie and Jack's developed awareness of how actions are connected to other actions (as with Mastern's spider web analogy) entail that Jack condemns irresponsibility in its concluding passages. It is imperative to argue, however, that this novel does not offer a damning indictment of corruption as such; it is subtle and shifting in its portrayal of Willie and Jack's attraction to power.
5. Analyze the parent/child relationship in All the King's Men.
It is the bond between father and son, however, which has a central role in the narrative. His relationship with Ellis Burden, who he presumes is his father until the death of Judge Irwin, has been similarly difficult. A glimpse of such difficulties is observable when Jack visits Ellis in his apartment and Jack's jealousy is revealed as Ellis cares for George. The rivalry and antagonism of the son toward the father are evident and this is emphasized when Jack researches Judge Irwin's past for 'dirt'.
Although Jack is unaware at this point that the Judge is his biological father, he has regarded him as a father figure since Ellis left the marital home when Jack was aged six.
These instances of rivalry are reminiscent of the Oedipal myth, which Freud drew upon in his concept of the Oedipal complex. The antagonism between the father and son is a typical, intergenerational conflict that prefigures the individuation of the male child.