Summary of All the king’s men

In the field of American Classical Literature, a novel is known by the name of All Men of the King, born from the famous pen of writer Robert Penn Warren, which was first published in 1946, thanks to the editorial work of the house Harcoourt Brace & Company.


Transcendence of the work

According to the Critique, All the King’s Men constitutes the best work of its author, as well as one of the most famous novels of all time. In fact, it is included in the Modern Library’s list of the greatest novels of the 20th century, where it is ranked 36th. In addition, this story earned its author the Pulitzer Prize, which was awarded in 1947. The prestigious magazine Time also included it as one of the 100 best novels published since 1923.

Likewise, the seventh art did not resist the idea of making an adaptation of the story of Robert Penn Warren. This is how there are two films, the first premiered in 1949, which won an Academy Award for Best Film that year, and another that took the big screen in 2006, also achieving great acceptance among the public.


Although it is catalogued as a work of political reference, in reality its author maintained from the beginning that his intention was never to write a work that was inscribed in this subject, but to use this environment as a stage, where blackmail, power, ambition, alliances, ideals, rivalries, betrayals, among others, will present an excuse to analyze the human condition, since beyond being able to occur in the political context, are actually inherent to man.

On the other hand, Penn Warren also takes the figure of the father, to reflect on how the modern West has created the need to have one, and how this sociological need can lead to various situations.

Summary of All the King’s Men

With regard to its content, it can basically be said that All the King’s Men has as its guiding thread the upward political career that has led Willie Stark, a man of humble origin, to become in the 1930s, Governor of Luisana, despite the rejection of some sectors that see in the figure of this man a populist politician, who is capable of lying and using demagogy to stay in power.

In this sense, somehow the sectors that accuse him of these faults are not entirely wrong, since Stark’s character will actually be debated throughout the novel between his genuine social and justice interests, and his great natural ambition to gain and retain more and more power.

It has the opposite effect on other people, such as brothers Anne and Adam Stanton, as well as Jack Burden, a lawyer and a passionate politician, who will come to witness the facts. These three young people have in common that they come from aristocratic families, and even though they feel disappointed or empty of the conditions of their class, perhaps this is why they are left behind by Stark’s populist current.

In this way, between each of these three pairs that are established between Anna Stanton, Adam Stanton and Jack Burden, different personalities and stories can be found within the main plot. Thus, for example, the author places importance on Adam Stanton’s great idealistic character, which is so passionate that sometimes they have no grip on reality. Stanton therefore falls more in love with words, speeches and deeds, with no need to really look at whether these are related to some deeds, or on the contrary are unrealistic ideals. Perhaps this is what catches him from Stark’s discourse where social work and the call for justice are always present.

For his part, the other man who participates in the story, the young Jack Burden, is presented as a man of laws, who ends up belonging to Willie Stark’s circle, firmly attracted by the great passion that attracts him to politics. Personally, Burden goes through a certain existential crisis that has made him lose faith in the world he knows, and move forward in the hope of getting one that really fills his perspectives. Perhaps this kind of apathy leads him to become a witness to everything that happens around Willie Stark.

In fact, Burden is not only a silent witness to Stark’s life, and his journey into the world of politics, but he ends up becoming the narrator of All the King’s Men. However, towards the end of the story, he will have to leave this position of spectator, and assume the challenge that the story places in front of him, without having any other choice.

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Image: portrait of Robert Penn Warren, author of All the King’s Men / Source: wikipedia.org

Summary of All the king’s men
Source: Education  
October 31, 2019


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