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Barron's Booknotes-All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren-Free Summary
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CHAPTER 10

SECTION ONE: THE BLOODY GROUND

Jack attends Adam's funeral in Burden's Landing and the Boss's funeral in the capital. Then he returns to Burden's Landing to stay a while. Anne is also staying in Burden's Landing. So, as would seem natural, they spend much time together. Most of it is spent in peaceful silence or with Jack reading to Anne. Neither of them talks about what has happened. They drift along in a kind of numbness. But one day the question of who phoned Adam becomes urgent to Jack.

NOTE: THE NARRATOR AS THE CENTRAL CHARACTER

As a final chapter should, Chapter 10 resolves several conflicts that were developed earlier in the book. Among them is the question of the underlying reasons for Willie's assassination. Yet, the primary conflict in All the King's Men has been within the consciousness of the narrator. As one reader puts it, this novel is, at least on one level, an "autobiography of a mind." And as most readers agree, the moving force of the novel is the narrator's struggle to reveal the pattern of events that leads to his self-acceptance and self-knowledge, to his sense of direction and sense of responsibility. Nevertheless, some believe that Jack Burden's dual role as narrator and central character is a flaw in an otherwise outstanding novel. They argue that because all the events are filtered through Jack's observations, you cannot know whether you are getting the straight story. In other words, they question the reliability of the narrator. And they cite Jack's introspective digressions and his philosophical flights as examples.

Whether or not you decide that Jack is a reliable narrator, you should notice the ways in which he resolves the conflicts of his life. In particular, notice how he comes to terms with the differences between himself and Willie and with the conflicts in his relationship with his mother. Also, notice that, through a sympathetic understanding of Tiny, Sadie, and Sugar-Boy, Jack gains a greater sense of both the tragic and the heroic aspects of life.

Jack gathers his courage to break the "conspiracy of silence" that he and Anne have formed in order not to look at the blood on their hands. Jack must know who else is responsible-who is more directly responsible-for the deaths of his friends. But Anne doesn't know who called Adam. She knows only that it was a man. In search of the truth, Jack leaves Burden's Landing.

First, Jack decides to talk to Sadie Burke. He finds her in a sanatorium, where fairly well-to-do people bring their problems and nervous symptoms.

Sadie's only beautiful feature was always her fire-ember eyes. But now Jack sees just ashes. She is burnt out. She explains that she is in a rest home simply because she is tired. Jack has one question for her: Who called Adam? Sadie says that she hasn't any idea. Jack humors her for a moment. Then he quickly turns and tells her that she knows it was Tiny.

Sadie curses Jack. But Jack keeps repeating, "How do you know?" Without putting up much of a fight, Sadie confesses that she told Tiny to do it. Jack is surprised. He did not suspect Sadie. He hears himself telling her, "You killed him." Jack is thinking of Adam. But Sadie is thinking of Willie. She says that Willie dumped her because he was going back to Lucy. She told Willie she would kill him, and she did. And in so doing, she also killed Adam Stanton.

Jack can forgive Sadie because she acted from passion, but he cannot forgive Tiny Duffy. He lets his hatred for Tiny fester. Then he visits Sadie again. Sadie volunteers to make a statement against Tiny. She doesn't want to protect herself. Rather, she resents the gleeful and arrogant way that Tiny acted after the Boss was shot.


Tiny, who had been Willie's lieutenant-governor, is now governor. He tells Jack that all the boys at the Capitol miss him. Further, Tiny wants Jack to work for him. Jack responds, "You are the stinkingest louse God ever let live." And he tells Tiny that he has talked to Sadie and so now knows that Tiny killed the Boss just as surely as if he had pulled the trigger himself. Jack leaves, feeling like an avenging hero. A few days later he receives a notarized statement from Sadie verifying Tiny's action in the Boss's death. She also includes a personal letter to Jack in which she offers some advice. She gives Jack several reasons for not pressing charges against Tiny. For one thing, they won't stand up in court. For another, Tiny does not have the respect of the Party and will not be nominated to run for governor in the next election. And finally, Anne's affair with Willie will become public knowledge, and there is no reason for her to suffer any more. Nevertheless, she says that if Jack persists in being an Eagle Scout, he has her support.

Jack sees the wisdom in her words. Even before her letter arrived, he had reflected on his motives for wanting to kick Tiny around. Tiny's confidence that Jack would work for him spurred Jack's reflection, and he began wondering what kind of image he has been projecting all these years. Now he sees himself to be as much of a political leech as Tiny.

Revolted by his own behavior, Jack sinks back into the despair of the Great Twitch-only this time more severely than before. He is experiencing the realization of loss.

Although Jack does not resort to a Great Sleep this time, he engages in something similar. He sits in his room, doesn't open his mail, and hangs out in the city. He goes to movies, bars, and the public library. One day, in the library, he runs into Sugar-Boy. Sugar-Boy seems to be hanging out, too. With the Boss gone, he doesn't know what to do with himself. But he is still clinging to his ferocious loyalty to Willie. Jack thinks about taking advantage of Sugar-Boy's loyalty. He presents him with a hypothetical question: What if you knew that Adam had been framed so that he would shoot the Boss and you knew who did it-what would you do? Sugar-Boy says that he would kill him, and Jack knows that indeed he would. Also, Jack thinks that, by killing Tiny, Sugar-Boy would perhaps fulfill his reason for existing. But then Jack sees Tiny's face winking at him as if they are brothers of the blood. So, Jack tells Sugar-Boy that he is just kidding. He wishes Sugar-Boy good luck and walks away.

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