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All the King's Men: Novel Summary: Chapter Nine

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This chapter begins with Willie letting Jack know he has heard of the Judge's death. Jack chooses not to tell him that the Judge is his father and does not reveal the knowledge he has for blackmailing him. Jack has decided that he will not be involved in blackmail any longer and has nothing further to do with the MacMurfee affair.

Meanwhile, Tom is excelling in football and Willie decides to remove the pressure from MacMurfee by buying off Gummy Larson. He arranges for Larson to have the hospital building contract after all. The reason for this is that with this 'sweetener' Larson will ask MacMurfee to stop attempting to blackmail Willie with the information about Tom's affair and possible child with Sibyl.

At a meeting with Larson, Willie gets drunk and throws a drink in Duffy's face. Jack points out, as narrator, how nothing fazes Larson, as 'he was a true businessman.' Willie is angry, however, at making this capitulation. Jack then draws on a biblical motif to consider why Anne would be attracted to a man such as Willie: '[Women] like to build their honeycomb in the carcass of a dead lion'.

The narrative shifts to Tom's exploits and we are told he has broken the training rules and has been suspended from playing. After his team is beaten, Willie uses his power to have Tom reinstated early. Whilst playing, Tom is knocked out and taken to hospital, and Willie asks Jack to fetch Lucy.

Tom is treated by Adam in the hospital, as Doctor Burnham is unable to get there immediately. It transpires that Tom is unconscious and his neck has been broken. Once Doctor Burnham arrives, he and Adam agree on the required procedures. Willie is given two options for his son: he will have either lengthy traction or a life-threatening operation. There is, however, an 'outside chance' of an improved life with the operation and Willie elects this for his son. After the operation, Adam informs Willie and Lucy that Tom will live, but his spinal chord has been crushed in the accident. He will never be able to use his arms and legs and will succumb to infections easily.

The operation is performed on the Sunday and the next day Willie comes to his office and tells his staff that there will no longer be a contract for Larson. Jack receives a telephone call from a distraught Anne and he goes to see her.

She is crying and insists he finds Adam. Adam has spoken to Anne and told her he will not be the director of Willie's hospital. He said he was only made director because of her relationship with Willie, and he will not be his sister's pimp. Before telling Anne this, Adam had received an anonymous call from a man who informed him of Anne and Willie's relationship and insinuated this was why Willie wanted to employ him.

Jack searches for Adam, but cannot find him. He is then asked to meet Willie at the Capitol. Whilst talking to Willie here, Adam appears. It seems as though Adam is about to shake Willie's hand, but he shoots him instead. Consequently, Adam is shot dead by Sugar-Boy and a highway patrolman. Willie survives for three days, but declines further in his health when he develops an infection. Before his death, he asks Jack why Adam did it and Jack says he does not know. Willie dies the next morning and Jack attends two funerals in a week: the first one was Adam's at Burden's Landing.

This chapter is noteworthy for the extended use of irony and melodrama that appeared in the previous chapter.

The horrors that ensue are comparable with a Jacobean macabre drama as Adam, Tom and Willie are struck down. The deaths of Adam and Willie are connected by the actions of various characters (most notably the anonymous caller who told Adam of his sister's affair), and Jack is also involved to a certain extent. In Chapter Four, Cass Mastern expands on the spider web theory, where one act can affect the lives of many. With these murders and the earlier suicide of Judge Irwin, it becomes clearer that Cass's view of cause and effect is finding a parallel in the 20th century.


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