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11. There is abundant evidence in the text to support either theme. If you think the search for knowledge is paramount, you'll need to argue that Jack's story is the moving force of the novel. And you'll want to prove that all the events are intended to show the various phases of his growth toward self-knowledge. Key episodes to consider are the Cass Mastern story in Chapter 4, Jack's love affair with Anne Stanton in Chapter 7, his discovery of the Great Twitch in the beginning of Chapter 8, Judge Irwin's suicide at the end of Chapter 8, and Jack's reconciliation with his mother in Chapter 10.
If you believe power and corruption are the major theme, you'll need to argue that Willie's story is as important as Jack's. One approach is to prove that only such a man as Willie can give Jack the excitement and reason for living that he so desperately lacks. In fact, Judge Irwin, Jack's actual father, is not altogether different from Willie. Jack describes the Judge as evil and strong, saying he prefers such a father to Ellis Burden, who is good but weak. What does this tell you about Jack? Certainly, Jack is attracted by power, and he is willing, at least for a time, to accept the corruption that often seems to be power's handmaiden. Another thing to consider is whether Warren is offering a moral to his tale. Is he concerned about the evils of power or is he merely presenting a description of the uses of power?
A third alternative is to show that these themes are intertwined. You can do so if you present the thesis that Jack's journey toward knowledge is greatly aided by his acceptance of man's nature. Jack, you can argue, learns that man's nature is always susceptible to secret corruption.
12. The Setting section in this guide suggests that the landscape and historical era of the novel are perhaps only accidents of the author's own background. In fact, in interviews and articles, Warren himself claims that his story represents a universal theme of human experience. As such, you can argue that similar stories can be told, using a variety of settings. You may want to offer an example or two of other settings in which a story with themes of self-knowledge and power can be told. And there are plenty of examples from literature-Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, for instance, and Sophocles' Oedipus the King. You can, however, make just as strong an argument for why the novel could have taken place only in the Depression years of the South. One approach is to discuss the vividness of the landscape and its effect on the characters' personalities and actions. You might include a comparison between Mason City and Burden's Landing. Another approach is to discuss the uncanny parallels between the life of Huey Long and the character Willie Stark.
13. In the Style section images found in the novel are presented. Some possible interpretations are as follows: Light and darkness images usually reveal Jack's attitude toward his experiences. They often relate to the knowledge theme. For the greater part of the story, Jack lives with a painful awareness of the brightness of life outside of his own shadowy existence. Water images speak of a time when Jack and Anne were in love, a time when Jack was at one with nature. These images often signal Jack's alienation from himself and from human involvement, especially from meaningful sexual involvement. Machine images are often associated with Willie, the man of fact. Willie controls a political machine, which he hopes to use to improve the economic lot of the people. Machines represent progress, including vast highways for easy car travel and electric lights for his father's farm. Building images often represent ideals. For example, the farmhouse can be seen as Lucy's symbol of the simple, happy life. And the hospital is Willie's symbol of his fundamentally good intentions. Other frequent images to consider are the bird (Anne's seagull and Jack's fantasy of having wings) and blood (the price of knowledge).
14. Although this question seems to ask the impossible-an entire synopsis of the novel-it can be handled well by presenting a few vivid examples of Jack's growth. You might begin by discussing Jack's cynical, "smart-aleck" attitude, as shown in his discussion with the Chronicle editor in Chapter 2, and include a comment about his escapes into periods of Great Sleep. Next, you can mention his confusion about Cass Mastern's motivations and follow this with his unemotional research on Judge Irwin in Chapter 5. When Jack discovers Anne's betrayal, he denies his responsibility by developing the Great Twitch theory. All this is preliminary to his blood discoveries-the deaths of the Judge, Willie, and Adam. After these, his attitude becomes more serious, more mature. And finally, as his mother is boarding the train for Reno, he accepts his past. You'll need to fill in the details of this outline.
15. No doubt you have noticed that Willie surrounds himself with two types of people-idealists and materialists. Hence, you can argue that Warren uses these characters to represent Willie's internal war with himself. On the materialist side there is Sadie, who seeks sexual power over powerful men; Tiny Duffy, who is simply greedy; Tom Stark, who loves the adulation attached to being a football hero; and such politicians as Sam MacMurfee, Gummy Larson, and Byram White. On the idealist side there is Lucy Stark, who has to believe that Willie was a great man; Adam Stanton, who tries to live up to his fantasy of Southern values; Anne Stanton, who supports Willie's hospital fantasy; Hugh Miller, who bails out of a corrupt administration. Yet, perhaps the most interesting characters are those who exhibit both the idealistic and the materialistic sides of human nature-for example, Willie Stark and Jack Burden, Judge Irwin and Jack's mother. If there is a moral to the novel, it seems to be that the fullest life is lived with an understanding and acceptance of the complete range of human potentials, accompanied by a keen sense of responsibility.