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Barron's Booknotes-All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren-Free Summary
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CHAPTER 9

SECTION ONE: TOM STARK

Jack begins this chapter by observing that no story is ever over. The "Case of the Upright Judge" ends tragically; yet, life goes on. The Judge's story, he says, is merely a chapter in the longer story of Willie Stark.

Instead of going into a Great Sleep or escaping West, as he has done during other crises, Jack returns to work, filled with resolve. He tells Willie that he will no longer do any of his dirty work. Surely, the Boss teases, he will help him to blackmail MacMurfee. Not even MacMurfee, Jack replies. From then on, Jack keeps apart from the dirty business of politics and goes about his "innocent little chores." One little chore, for instance, is helping the Boss put together a tax bill.

Meanwhile, the governor has to find a solution to the threat posed by MacMurfee. With Judge Irwin dead, Willie seems to have only two options-either to give up his plans to run for the Senate or to award the hospital contract to Gummy Larson. Either way he emerges a loser. If he buckles under to MacMurfee's pressure, he sacrifices power and pride. If he bribes Larson, he contaminates the hospital with political wheeling and dealing and cuts loose one of his few remaining ties to the political ideals of his youth. He chooses power over ideals.

One night, when Jack visits the governor's mansion, he finds the Boss quite drunk, in the company of Gummy Larson and Tiny Duffy. Apparently, the hospital deal is being cinched. And Willie is obviously miserable, even though Larson has agreed to take care of MacMurfee for him. Before Larson leaves, the Boss threatens that he will rip him open if he so much as leaves off one window latch: "You hear-that's my hospital-it's mine!"

After Larson and Tiny leave, the Boss continues cursing Larson. And he curses himself for letting dirty politics touch the hospital.

Jack thinks about Tom's role in the Boss's current misery. And he thinks that Willie, in part, brought this on himself by making Tom what he is. In appearance, Tom resembles his father as a young man. But their similarities end there. As a young man, the Boss was energetically trying to discover his purpose in life. Tom, however, is content to be a flashy, arrogant football hero. He breaks training whenever he likes, and the coach ignores it-until one of his tavern fights makes the newspapers. Then he and another player are suspended.

Without their star quarterback, State loses the next game to Georgia. The team still has a chance of winning the Conference championship, but they must win the next game. After the Boss puts pressure on the coach, Tom is allowed to play and the team wins. The next game is an easy one. Tom doesn't even need to be on the field in the second half, but the coach sends him in for some exercise. Tom is showing off a bit when he gets hit. He doesn't get up.

When Tom is taken to the hospital, Adam Stanton is put on the case. Tom's neck is broken and he's paralyzed. Adam advises an immediate operation but admits to Willie that the operation is risky. Without consulting Lucy, the Boss agrees to the operation. Adam looks at Lucy. She also agrees. While they are waiting for the outcome, the Boss says that he is going to name his new hospital the Tom Stark Hospital. Lucy quietly says, "Oh, Willie, don't you see? Those things don't matter."

Hours later Adam returns from surgery. Tom will live, but he will be paralyzed. His spinal cord is crushed.


NOTE: DIRECTION

In this section, Jack withdraws into his shell. He shuns involvements of all kinds, from social outings to dirty politics. Perhaps he is recuperating from the loss of his father and from his disillusionment over Anne. Then again, he may be gathering his energies so that he will be able to find a purpose for himself. Until now, he has been drifting along without direction.

After the judge's suicide, Jack witnesses another series of sad events-the Boss's sacrifice of goodness for power and the crippling of Tom Stark. Yet, he sees that all these events are tied together. Tom's sexual excursion leads to Jack's having to tell the Judge that his sinful past has been discovered. The judge's death causes the Boss to turn to Gummy Larson. The Boss's pressure on the coach leads to Tom's paralysis. And time rolls on, with the past affecting the present, the present giving meaning to the past, and the future always being only a breath away. As Jack says, "But this only affirms what we must affirm: that direction is all." Jack is growing in wisdom.

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