"All the King's Men" by Robert Penn Warren.

Essay by squirrel9iHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2003

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In the novel All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren, through his memorable character Jack Burden, analyzes the relationship between action and consequences and their far-reaching effects. Time, a linear measurement, differs much from its cousin, history, a record of the past whose hands touch the present and shape the future. Ellis Burden departing from his wife and Jack, Judge Irwin accepting a bribe from the American Electric Power Company, and Jack digging for dirt on Judge Irwin all catalyze a chain of events that completely nullify Jack's consoling theory of the Great Twitch.

Jack, in contrast to his former belief in the Great Twitch, now believes that the "world is like an enormous spider web" (188), a simile which presents the idea that a "web" completely interconnects the whole world. Jack then links this idea to the idea that "if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter" (188).

The actions of any person will traverse through the "web of the world" and have its presence felt everywhere. The "drowsy spider" (188), a metaphor likening history to a semiconscious spider, never fails in its duty to administer justice, to catalyze the consequences, when someone acts or brushes "the web of things" (189). When Ellis Burden, the supposed father of Jack, leaves Jack and Jack's mother after discovering the surreptitious love affair between Monty Irwin and Jack's mother, Jack loses a father and a source of security and love and begins to try every way possible to garner his mother's love in a competition with her other husbands. Ellis Burden's loss, paralleled to Duncan Trice's tragedy, highlights a characteristic of man: man runs and seeks escape when truth stares its merciless eyes upon man. Because Ellis Burden left the family during...