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Barron's Booknotes-All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren-Free Summary
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The discovery of Anne's involvement with the Boss deeply disturbs Jack, and he flees to California.


Like Chapter 4, this chapter is a frame story. It is the story of the youthful romance between Jack Burden and Anne Stanton, framed in the narrative between Jack's description of his eight-day trip to California and back. Jack's way of telling the story, however, differs from the way he tells the Cass Mastern story. This is a personal story that is close to his heart.

His romance with Anne has been in a state of limbo for many years. Yet, even with the new development, he does not see their romance as over. His love for Anne is still alive. And this love may be the only intense emotion that he has not suppressed with his relentless cynicism and dispassionate investigations into other people's pasts. He could view the Mastern story with emotional distance, but he is intimately involved with the Burden-Stanton romance. Further, this story is not over, not even at the chapter's end.

Driving at seventy-five miles per hour through the mostly desert lands of the Southwest, Jack describes himself as "moving back through time into my memory." He says it is like seeing an old home movie. He sees his father giving him candy. He sees himself hunting with Judge Irwin. And he sees a succession of stepfathers. But his memories focus on Anne Stanton.

Jack grew up with Governor Stanton's two children, Adam and Anne. Adam is about Jack's age and Anne is four years younger. He remembers her as the little girl who always seemed to be around when he and Adam were playing. But then, in his twenty-first summer, he began to see her in a different light.

In his memory Jack goes back to that time. He is home from the university. In the mornings he, Adam, and Anne play tennis, and in the afternoons they swim and sail. They are a threesome. Then, one evening, when Adam is away, Jack and Anne go to a movie. On the way home they stop at Hardin Point to watch the moonlight on the bay. They sit in silence, as Jack tries to decide whether to kiss her. He does not. After that evening, however, things change between them. The romance has begun.

Anne and Jack spend an affectionate, happy summer together. Often they talk about what they will do when they get married. And one time she asks how he will make a living. Like most women in those days-about 1918- she, of course, will be a mother and a housewife. But Jack needs a career. However, he has not given the matter much thought, so he tells her that he is thinking of studying law. Making money is not important to her, but she does expect him to commit himself to something in life besides simply loving her.

Jack lets their relationship drift along. He thinks of her as a young, sensitive, somewhat timid girl. And he thinks of himself as an older man of the world. They never make love, but they come close one rainy night near summer's end.

As Jack is driving to California, he thinks about what would have happened if he had not refused to make love to Anne and if they had been discovered in his bedroom. Most certainly, he decides, everyone would have insisted on a wedding. Thus, in this intermission in his home movies, Jack thinks, "My nobility (or whatever it was) had had in my world almost as dire a consequence as Cass Mastern's sin had had in his." In other words, perhaps his marriage to Anne could have saved him. But saved him from what?

A year later, Jack starts law school and hates it. Anne says that she doesn't care if he studies law; she just wants him to want to do something. He wants to marry her, but she refuses until he has found a purpose in life. Eventually, they go their separate ways. After flunking out of law school, he discovers that he has a keen interest in history and so begins work on a Ph.D. in American history. But a year and a half later he abandons his dissertation, begins working as a reporter for the Chronicle, and marries Lois Seager. Jack describes Lois as extremely attractive, as better looking than Anne. Yet, he can't figure out why Lois married him-she has plenty of money and is not interested in brilliant conversation. He decides she must have married him for the Burden name. He does, however, include the possibility that she loves him.

The intriguing question, though, is why Jack married Lois. He doesn't love her or respect her. He says that "the only things Lois knew about love was how to spell the word and how to make the physiological adjustments traditionally associated with the idea." As long as Lois simply behaves as a lovable, good-looking, sexy animal, the marriage goes well. But when she talks or acts in any way resembling a conscious human being, Jack becomes incredibly annoyed. Finally, Jack goes into his Great Sleep phase and one morning packs his suitcase and walks out of the apartment. Just as he left his dissertation, he abandons Lois. He never sees her again. Was his love for Anne responsible for his refusal to see Lois as a human being? Why did he like the "machine-Lois" but not the flesh-and-blood Lois? What do you think about Jack's way of dealing with his problems with Lois?

In his role as narrator, Jack then brings the Burden-Stanton relationship up to date. After their breakup, Anne attended a two-year woman's college in Virginia, something of a finishing school. She became engaged several times but never married. When Governor Stanton's health began to fail, she moved home to care for him. He died seven years later. By the time Anne moves to the capital, she is almost thirty.

In the city she finally does become engaged, but, again, does not marry. She reads books, keeps up her appearance, and does volunteer work for an orphanage. Then, Willie comes into the picture, and she becomes his mistress.

Feeling betrayed, Jack heads west, away from the troubling situation. He feels that Anne never really loved him. Instead, he thinks that she "merely had a mysterious itch in the blood." But in his heart Jack knows that there was more to it than an itch. In fact, by the end of his reverie in California, Jack comes to see that Anne has always known his problem-his lack of confidence in the world and in himself. And he sees that, in a sense, he handed Anne over to Willie. Jack is beginning to take responsibility for his position in life and in history. He decides to go home.


Why is Anne having an affair with Willie? For a short time, Jack seems to be taking all the blame for Anne's affair. But this answer is too simple. For one thing, it does not explain why Anne is attracted to Willie. Perhaps she feels an emptiness of her own that Willie's dynamic personality and self-confidence fulfills. Jack sees that he did not live up to Anne's expectations. But why does she have these expectations? Why has she always insisted that Jack exhibit a sense of purposefulness? Some readers feel that she is looking for a father figure.

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