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Free Study Guide-All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 3

Summary

Few years after Jack Burden accepts the job offered by Willie Stark, he visits Burdenís Landing. As always, his mother welcomes him. Jack hates her ways but loves and admires her charm. He allows himself to be pampered by her. He indulges in leisure and takes long walks. Once while walking in the rain, he remembers the past when he had gone out for a picnic with Adam and Anne Stanton. That was the time he had taken notice of Anneís feminine charms.

When he gets back to work, the Boss is involved in a controversy. Starkís auditor had messed up things by involving himself in a shady deal. MacMurfee had found it out and was on the point of impeaching Bryam White. Stark warns White to be careful in the future but decides to save him from the scandal. He asks Jack and his other followers to gather support for him from the people. By himself, he goes to meet people to convince them of his innocence. Thus garnering the support of the people, they defeat the case. Stark gains one more victory but it does not make him happy. He is angry with his rival for provoking him and his conscience is kindled when Lucy turns against him.

Notes

The chapter throws light on Jack Burdenís early life, his relationship with his mother and friends. Whenever Burden meets his mother, he experiences mixed feelings. In his words, "I would come home with the firm conviction that she didnít really care a thing about me, that I was just another man whom she wanted to have around because she was the kind of woman who had to have men around and had to make them dance to her tune. But as soon as I saw her, I would forget all that. Burden is angry with his mother for marrying so many times because he is still possessive about her. He is happy when she displays her love to him and treats him like a child. Jack enjoys her indulgence and feels "she had the trick of making a little island right in the middle of time, and of you knowing, which is what time does to you." He wants her to pamper him but dislikes her interfering with his work.


As Jack Burden remembers the past, he relates about his parents and their separation. When Jack was hardly six, his father had walked out of their lives. He describes the poignant scene after his fatherís exit from the house. As a confused little boy, he had asked his mother why he had left them. And his motherís reply that his father loved them no more had touched the heart of the little boy. He had felt sorry for his mother. That incident had ignited his feeling of animosity against the elderly man whom he refers to as the Scholarly Attorney and not as father.

Jack mentions his motherís marriage to different men after his father had deserted them. Sarcastically he compares the change of husbands with the change in furniture in the house. "Well, Iíd sat in that room with all of them, the Scholarly Attorney and the Tycoon and the Count and the Young Executive, and had watched the furniture change. So now I sat and looked at Theodore and at the new Sheraton break-front-desk, and wondered how permanent they were." The furniture in the house was transitory as the husbands. Jackís mother seemed to opt for variety both in men and furniture. Jack was the only person whom she did not want to discard. The passage throws light on her restless nature and her feeling of insecurity.

Jack also remembers his friends Adam and Anne Stanton and his neighbor, Judge Irwin. Whenever he had gone home on a holiday from school or college, he had spent time with his friends. It was during one such holiday that he had gone for a picnic with them. Watching Adam and Anne after a swim, he had become aware of their real natures. He reminiscences, "I suppose that day I first saw Anne and Adam as separate, individual people, whose ways of acting were special, mysterious and important. And perhaps too, that day I first saw myself as a person." This was the time when he had first noticed Anne as a woman even though she was still a kid. It had sown the seed of affection in him for her.

Jack reveals the relationship between Judge Irwin and the Burdens. The two families had been on intimate terms and had kept in touch. The Judge had had a soft corner for Jack and had treated him like his son. Jack too had respected the elderly man. It is thus surprising to find Jack behaving in a high-handed manner with Irwin later. Perhaps the influence of the Boss casts a shadow on Jack to behave like a puppet of his master.

The chapter presents two contradictory scenes, one where Jack is enjoying a leisurely holiday and the other where Willie Stark is troubled with a controversy. When Jack returns back to his office, he finds his Boss entangled in a problem. Bryam White, the auditor of Stark has committed an impropriety and been caught in the process. MacMurfee has taken the opportunity to impeach Bryam in a bid to defame the Boss.

The chapter highlights the character of Willie Stark the Governor as opposed to Stark, the treasurer of Mason County. The bad experience he had had in the past with Joe Harrison has hardened him. Stark now acts like a hungry lion ready to pounce on his enemy. He uses pressure tactics to win support and out wit his rival. He uses his power and position to lure the people towards him. As a result, he succeeds in squashing the impeachment case against Bryam White. He fights for Bryam in order to assert his superiority over MacMurfee. Stark thus emerges as a ruthless politician who would do anything to achieve his aim.

It is ironical that Willie is not happy in spite of his victory. When Tiny and his followers cheer the Boss and prepare to celebrate the occasion, Stark stops them from doing so. He feels bad acting contrary to the suggestion of Lucy and his conscience troubles him. Though he raves and rants against her attitude, he feels guilty. He feels politically victorious but spiritually defeated.

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