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SECTION TWO: BURDEN'S LANDING
Jack Burden, as you may have guessed, is related to the people for whom Burden's Landing is named. It was here that he was born and raised. Jack warns the Boss that Judge Irwin will not be easy to frighten. Jack knows. The Judge was like a father to him as he was growing up on the prestigious Row-the drive facing the bay-of Burden's Landing.
As Jack directs Sugar-Boy to the Judge's house at the end of the Row, he thinks about his childhood friends, the children of Governor Stanton-Adam, now a famous surgeon, and Anne, the girl Jack still loves, who is unmarried and living in the city. Also, Jack remembers how, when he was a boy, his father, Ellis Burden, walked out of the house one day and never returned.
Although Jack does not yet tell you much about himself, here you discover that he has always had close connections with state politics and politicians. And you can see the contrasts between Willie, a farmboy from the poor, upstate community of Mason City, and Jack, something of a Southern aristocrat from the wealthier and more politically influential community of Burden's Landing. While Willie, as a boy, had to work hard for everything he got, Jack was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Another thing to note is that although Jack claims he does not want to remember anything ("If the human race didn't remember anything it would be perfectly healthy"), he continually revisits his past.
When the Cadillac stops in front of Judge Irwin's house, the Boss sends Jack to the door. The Judge seems glad to see Jack, until he notices Willie behind him.
Uninvited, the Boss walks in and pours himself some whiskey. Quickly getting to the point, he wants to know why the Judge turned against his "boy" for the Senate. He suspects that someone has dug up some dirt on his candidate and promises to do the same on the man the Judge has endorsed. The Judge doesn't back down. When Willie suggests that maybe the Judge's hands are not altogether clean, Irwin orders him out of the house.
Heading back to Mason City, the Boss gives Jack another assignment: Find some dirt on the Judge and make it stick! Jack appears reluctant to search for a scandal on the man who was once like a father to him. He tells the Boss that he doubts there is any dirt to find. The Boss responds: "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something." What does this remark tell you about Willie's view of human nature? You'll notice that Jack repeats Willie's remark several times. You might want to consider why these words made such a big impression on Jack.
In this chapter, the narrator introduces you to two sides of Willie's character. In Mason City, Willie appears to be simply a "good ol' boy" who loves his family and cares for the poor people of the state. In Burden's Landing, however, his actions reveal that he is also a confident, hard-edged politician who, if necessary, would ruin the reputation of others to get what he is after. As you learn more about Willie, try to discover what he is after. What motivates him? Is it power or money? Or is it something else?
Also in this chapter the narrator introduces you to himself. He calls himself an idealist, who prefers to ignore reality, whenever possible. But his memory keeps interrupting the peace he is trying to make with himself. Jack is searching for answers to a tragedy he cannot forget, a tragedy that he only hints at-the deaths of Judge Irwin, Adam Stanton, and the Boss. What is this burden that Jack Burden carries?