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Barron's Booknotes-All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren-Free Summary
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SECTION TWO: FRIENDS

Willie tells Jack, "Get Stanton." This new assignment amuses Jack. After all, Adam is a friend of his youth, and he knows that Adam is not at all fond of the Boss. In fact, Jack sees the task of convincing Adam to head the Boss's hospital as being more nearly impossible than it was to unearth a past scandal about Judge Irwin.

Nevertheless, Jack goes to Adam's apartment to make Willie's offer: "Governor Stark wants you to be director of the new hospital and medical center." Adam sits in stunned silence while Jack presents his argument. In Willie's hospital, Adam would be able to see that all the poor people of the state were taken care of, and he would be paid rather handsomely. Moreover, he could run the hospital in whatever way he liked, without any political interference. Adam responds that he will not be bought by the Boss.

Growing impatient, Jack warns Adam that he will find what he needs to convince Adam to become the hospital director. Although he doesn't tell Adam, Jack is going to Memphis to pick up the letter that implicates Adam's father, the former governor, in the Judge's scandal. Jack leaves, slamming the door. After he returns from Memphis, Jack responds to an urgent call from Anne. She demands that Jack make Adam accept the Boss's offer, because, she explains, Adam is trying to cut himself off from the world and being hospital director will keep him in touch with reality. Then she insists on knowing why Adam does not want to take advantage of this career opportunity. Jack tells her that it is because Adam is the descendant of a long line of high-minded idealists who thought the world should conform to their standards, and if Anne wants Adam to take the job, she will have to change Adam's idealistic view of the world. When she asks how, Jack says, "I can give him a history lesson."

What Jack means by "history lesson" is, of course, the papers he has on Governor Stanton's role in the Littlepaugh suicide and Irwin bribe affair. By seeing his father as less than perfect morally, Adam may change his view of the world. But will a change in Adam's viewpoint cause him to accept Willie's political practices?

What is Adam's view of the world? As Jack tells Anne, Adam is both a scientist and a romantic. The scientist in him sees everything as a tidy and orderly system; the romantic in him sees the moral world of human conduct in a similar way. For Adam, the bad molecules always behave badly, and the good ones always act in accordance with goodness. Thus, he has no place in his thinking for good molecules that sometimes act badly. Yet, he is about to discover just such a set of molecules when he learns one aspect of his father and Judge Irwin's place in history. With this new knowledge will Adam's view of the world change?


Little does Anne know that her own view of the world is about to change. When Jack tells her about her father's indiscretion, Anne refuses at first to believe it. Several days later, with the incriminating papers in her hand, she visits Adam and then calls Jack with the news: Adam has accepted Willie's offer. But she asks Jack for one favor-not to use the information against Judge Irwin until after the Judge has seen it. Jack agrees.

Jack's news about Adam's acceptance both surprises and pleases Willie. He insists on going to see Adam. Adam emphasizes his lack of respect for Willie's administration, and the Boss lets Adam know that his opinions don't mean a thing to him. Then, Willie shares some of his philosophy with Adam. He says that goodness is not something inherited; goodness is made, and it is made out of badness, because there is nothing else to make it out of.

Later, Jack thinks about the Boss's remarks on goodness. If Willie thinks that you make good from bad, why is he against letting Tiny Duffy make a deal on the hospital contract? Gummy Larson is as competent a builder as any in the state.

Something else is also bothering Jack. If he did not tell Anne about the Boss's offer to Adam and if Adam did not tell her, how did she find out? The answer comes from a raging Sadie Burke, who has just discovered that the Boss is once again "two-timing" her. Jack jokingly points out that Willie may be twotiming his wife, but he can't be two-timing Sadie. Making threats against the Boss and his new mistress, the irate woman even accuses Jack of being involved. Then the truth finally dawns on Jack. The Boss's new mistress is Anne Stanton.

In a daze, Jack walks to Anne's apartment. No words are exchanged. Anne simply nods.

NOTE: IRONY

This chapter exhibits Warren's skillful use of irony. Irony is an author's technique for presenting a set of circumstances in which the consequences and the implications of someone's behavior turn out to be different from what the characters expected and, often, from what you expected.

For example, while thinking about Adam's reaction to Judge Irwin's bribe, Jack says: "I couldn't cut the truth to match his ideas. Well, he'd have to make his ideas match the truth." But when Jack discovers Anne's involvement with the Boss, it is he who has to adapt his picture of the world to the truth.

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