All the King's Men: Character Profiles

Average Overall Rating: 5
Total Votes: 277

Adam Stanton:  A childhood friend of Jack and the brother of Anne, Adam is also the personification of honesty and idealism. He is a surgeon and works to help people rather than for profit. Because of this altruism, Willie wishes to employ him as the director of his new hospital. After Adam receives an anonymous telephone call (which is from Tiny Duffy) and is told that Anne has been having an affair with Willie, his idealism is shattered and he assassinates him. Adam is shot by Sugar-Boy and a police man in their defence of Willie.

Anne Stanton:  Anne is the sister of Adam and friend and former lover of Jack. Her affair with Willie Stark is one of the reasons that Adam loses his faith in the good. Jack's earlier idealization of her is encapsulated as a memory of her floating in the water as a child.

Cass Mastern:  This man is the maternal uncle of Ellis Burden and is the subject of Jack Burden's uncompleted PhD research. His story appears in Chapter Four.

Ellis Burden:  (see Scholarly Attorney)

Gummy Larson:  Gummy Larson is a marginal figure, but is of importance as a representative of corruption. Despite Willie's involvement in political machinations and bribery, he initially decides to build his hospital without Larsen as he wants this work to be untainted. Willie's moral downfall is complete once he changes his mind and chooses Larson for the building contract in order to protect his son (and therefore himself) from a potentially damaging sex scandal.

Jack Burden:  Jack is the first person narrator of the novel and, consequently, it is his perspective that the readers share. He is a journalist working for the Chronicle when he first meets Willie and it is worth remembering that this colors the narrative. The distance and moral ambiguity required of the archetypal journalist is used authentically by Penn Warren in his characterization of Jack. Before his journalist work, Jack was studying for a PhD in American History and this desire to research, and to find the truth, is also another facet to his character.

Jack's mother:  Jack's mother is not given a full name and is characterized by the harsh way that Jack views her for the majority of the novel. It is only in the final chapter that he recognizes his mother has feelings, and that she loved Judge Irwin. The Judge's death drives her to leave Burden's Landing.

Judge Irwin:  Judge Irwin is at first revered by Jack and is regarded as a father-figure from his childhood at Burden's Landing. When Jack begins investigating his past for 'dirt', on behalf of Willie, the catastrophic events that lead to the deaths of Judge Irwin, Willie and Adam begin to unfold. After Jack reveals to the Judge that he knows of his involvement in a bribery scandal and a suicide, the Judge kills himself and Jack is told by his mother that he has killed his father.

Lois:  Lois is Jack's first wife and their unsuccessful marriage is described in Chapter Seven.

Lucy Stark:  Lucy is the wife of Willie and plays only a slight role in the novel. By the end, her husband and son are dead and she has adopted the baby she hopes is her grandchild. She reveals to Jack that she paid the mother $6,000 to ensure the adoption.

MacMurfee:  MacMurfee is Willie's political rival for the role of Governor and is his nemesis throughout the course of the novel.

Mortimer Littlepaugh:  Once Jack discovers Littlepaugh's suicide, and how he used to work for the American Electric Power Company, he begins to find the required 'dirt' on Judge Irwin.

Sadie Burke:  Sadie is Willie's secretary and adviser and has had a long-standing love affair with him whilst he is Governor. It is her jealousy of Willie and Anne's relationship that inspires her to encourage Tiny Duffy to ring Adam to let him know about it. The scars on her face from small pox are a constant reminder of her blighted childhood that was mired in poverty.

Scholarly Attorney:  This is the name by which Jack mainly refers to the man (Ellis Burden) whom he considers to be his father in the earlier chapters of the novel. After leaving his family behind when Jack is aged six, this character embarks on a 'career' of preaching to the world about God's truth. In Chapter Eight, Jack and the readers discover that Judge Irwin is his biological father, but this old man comes to live with Jack and Anne in the final chapter. We are led to believe that the Scholarly Attorney left the marital home because of his wife's affair with the Judge, but it is not clear whether he has ever known if Jack is his son or not.

Sugar-Boy:  Sugar-Boy is the driver and assistant for Willie when he becomes Governor. He is characterized by his stammer and love of sugar (hence his nickname), and is wholly loyal to Willie. He shoots Adam when he sees him pointing a gun at Willie.

Tiny Duffy:  Duffy is a tax assessor when he first meets Jack. In his work for the Democrats, he was party to Willie being deceived into running for Governor. When Willie is finally installed in this position, he makes Duffy his Lieutenant Governor and is aware that he cannot trust him. This is borne out when Duffy rings Adam to tell him of his Anne's affair with Willie.

Tom Stark:  Tom is the son of Willie and Lucy. Jack's sneering descriptions of him as 'All American' refer to his football prowess and his over-attachment to stereotypically masculine behaviors, such as sleeping with numerous women and driving whilst inebriated.

Willie Stark:  Willie is the central character as the narrative traces the trajectory of his rise and fall. Early in the novel he is an honest, law-abiding citizen who is a County Treasurer. He loses his job because of his honesty as he wants to take the lowest, best bid for the construction of a schoolhouse.

After finally being voted in as Governor, the changes in his character are made apparent. When Jack first meets him he is virtually tee-total. With his rise to power, Willie begins to drink more and has many affairs and relationships with other women. Power is seen to corrupt the innocence of the man Jack initially thought of as 'Cousin Willie'.

Young Executive (Theodore) :  The Young Executive is the scathing name Jack gives to his mother's current partner. In the final chapter, his mother leaves the Young Executive to begin a new life in Reno.

Quotes: Search by Author

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z