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

Telegrams expressing sympathy flood Willie's office. Jack watches the Boss's men as they enter the office. Tiny comes in, his face a marvel of gloom. But when he discovers that the Boss isn't in, he perks up. Sadie arrives, looks around at the mournful gathering, curses, and goes into her office. For Jack, it's a rather pleasant day. Peering out a window, he describes the landscape as looking like "the face of a person who has been sick a long time and now feels better and thinks maybe he is going to get well."

NOTE:

You have probably noticed that Jack is fond of describing both the interior design and the outdoor surroundings of the places he visits. Often, the way he sees these places reflects his attitude toward life. In the line just quoted, you can see Jack projecting onto the landscape his feelings of having overcome a long illness. And, as you will see shortly, he is not the only person overcoming a long spiritual illness.

The Boss enters the office. His face shows the ravages of pain, but his eyes are clear. He tells Tiny that the deal with Larson is off.

Jack goes back into his office. Later in the afternoon, he discovers that Sadie tore out of her office like a wildcat after prey. He wonders what is going on. Things seem a bit strange. Then he gets a call from Anne.

When he arrives at her apartment, Anne is in tears. Some man called Adam to tell him that Anne is Willie's mistress, that Adam is the hospital director only because of Anne's hold over Willie, and that now Adam is going to be fired because he has paralyzed Tom by performing a bad operation. Telling Anne that he will not "be paid pimp to his sister's whore," Adam has run out of her apartment. Anne now asks Jack to find Adam and talk to him. "Get him," she pleads. "For he's all I've got now."

Jack goes in search of Adam, He looks all day and leaves messages everywhere. But he doesn't find him. That evening Jack is called to the Capitol.

The legislators are milling around after ending a late session on the new tax bill. Jack sees the Boss talking to several senators. Sugar-Boy is leaning against a marble wall. Jack leans with him and waits. Shortly, the Boss calls Jack over. He says that he has something to tell him.

As they walk into the great lobby under the dome, Jack sees Adam standing near one of the statues. Adam is wet and muddy. Jack calls his name, but Adam ignores him and walks toward the Boss. Willie puts out his hand. Adam puts out his hand. Holding a small pistol, he fires twice.

These shots are immediately followed by a series of louder shots, and Adam falls to the floor. Jack runs to him, but he is already dead. Sugar-Boy stands nearby with a smoking pistol in his hand.


At first, Jack thinks that the Boss was not hit. Then he pushes through a crowd and sees Willie sitting on the floor with both hands covering a wound in his chest. He is taken to the hospital, survives an operation, but dies several days later from an infection. Before he dies, he says, "It might have all been different, Jack. You got to believe that."

During his political career, Willie steadily gained more and more control over the state government and over the people who run it. Except for MacMurfee's opposition, Willie's control was practically absolute. But after Tom Stark became paralyzed, something happened to Willie. This situation was one over which he had no control. Apparently, he took stock of himself and decided to turn things around. First, he told Tiny to call off the Larson deal. He appeared to have called off his affair with Anne. Also, something upset Sadie but, at this point, you can only assume that the Boss had cleaned out this unsavory aspect of his life, too. Willie wanted to talk to Jack. But before he could, Adam shot him. He died, saying how it might have all been different. In the few days before he was shot, he seemed to be trying to make things different, perhaps to return to the ideals of his youth. But all the king's horses and all the king's men could not put Willie back together again.

This chapter ends with many issues left unresolved. For instance, what decisions had Willie made that led to his death? Who was the anonymous caller who incited Adam to assassinate the Boss? These questions are answered in the next chapter.

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