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The following characters are discussed in order of appearance in All the King's Men.
• SUGAR-BOY O'SHEEAN
Sugar-Boy, a sugar cube-eating Irishman, is the first character you meet. He is Willie's driver and bodyguard. He can drive a Cadillac with great speed and agility, and he's a deadly accurate target shooter. Beyond that, he stutters, appears to be mentally retarded, and is dominated by one emotion-intense loyalty to Willie.
• TINY DUFFY
When you first meet Tiny Duffy, he is Willie Stark's lieutenant governor, the second in command of the state. Later you discover that he was one of the men who deceived Willie during Willie's first campaign for governor. Willie, however, wooed Tiny away from another political camp and made Tiny his chief lackey. Tiny has no loyalty to any political faction-he seeks his own selfish interests and will grovel, if that's what it takes, to maintain a position in state government. But Tiny should not be underestimated; he is a dangerous man. So, like Jack, you may wonder why Willie has raised Tiny to such a powerful place in state politics.
• LUCY STARK
Most of all Lucy, Willie's wife, wants to be a good mother and a good wife. She supports Willie's political ambitions but appears uncomfortable in the role of governor's wife. When she can no longer tolerate seeing what politics has done to Willie and what football stardom has done to their son, she returns to farm life, leaving Willie to his political and sexual intrigues. Yet, she doesn't divorce Willie. Like most other Southern women of her generation, she is devoted to the soil, to the family, and to tradition. But this in itself doesn't explain her loyalty to Willie. She loved him deeply when he was only a county politician. Does she love him later or does she merely love the memory of their good times together?
• TOM STARK
Willie adores Tom, his only child. But his love blinds him. Unlike Lucy, he doesn't see that Tom is becoming an unbearably arrogant young man. Once Tom becomes the star quarterback of the state university football team, he cannot stay out of trouble. His father, however, always comes to his aid. By refusing to discipline Tom, Willie widens the rift between Lucy and himself. Finally, one of Tom's sexual escapades requires Willie to put his reputation and power on the line. Still, Willie doesn't blame him; after all, he says, Tom is just a boy.
• SADIE BURKE
Sadie is always in love with politicians who never marry her. She came from the wrong side of the tracks and will never let anyone forget it. She can curse as well as anyone, and, all in all, she puts on a good show. But behind the mask of a tough, no-nonsense career woman, she desperately wants someone to love her, and for most of the novel she wants that someone to be Willie. She is both Willie's personal secretary and his mistress. With a keen business sense and a quick wit, she comes across as unfeminine and coarse. Consider the ways in which Sadie is similar to, and different from, Anne Stanton and Lucy.
• JUDGE IRWIN
When Jack was growing up, Judge Irwin lived down the street and taught the boy to ride, shoot, and hunt. As Jack says, the Judge was like a father to him. Why, then, as an adult working for Governor Stark, does Jack pursue his research into the Judge's past? How can he betray a lifelong friend? Unlike Jack, the Judge is unswervingly loyal to friends and to tradition. A brilliant man, he has had a distinguished political career-except for one serious indiscretion, the scandal that Jack discovers in the Judge's past. Even when faced with exposure, Judge Irwin does not sacrifice his integrity and self-esteem. After courageously refusing to let Willie blackmail him, he shoots himself.