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Free Study Guide-All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren-Free Book Notes
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Jack Burden returns back to work after his short holiday. He feels enlightened and ready to face reality. He is happy to meet the Boss and find everything in order. He resumes his normal activities. He meets Adam and expresses a desire to witness an operation performed by his friend. A short while later, he hears from Anne that Adam had been spoken to by an agent of Gummy Larson. One day, after Adam and Anne had returned home from dinner, they had a visitor called Coffee. The stranger had asked Adam to influence the Boss to hand over the contract of the hospital to Gummy Larson. Adam had hit him in a fit of anger. The incident demoralizes Adam, and he decides to hand over his resignation to the Boss. Anne requests Jack to convince Adam not to taken any hasty decision. Jack succeeds in changing the mind of Adam by assuring him of punishment to Coffee and settling the matter justly.

No sooner things are sorted out than another problem crops up for the Boss. A barber named Marvin Frey threatens Willie Stark of adverse action if he did resolve the issue of his daughter. Tom had taken Sybil Frey advantage of and she blames the boy for making her pregnant. Willie is disturbed and clarifies the matter from Tom. Tom confesses his mistake but relates how other boys were also involved in it. MacMurfee tries to help by keeping Marvin at bay but expects something in return. Before the Boss can hit upon a plan of action, MacMurfee sends away both Marvin and his daughter to Arkansas. Willie Stark is afraid that MacMurfee will use the case against him in the future. He asks Burden to speak to Irwin and convince the Judge to influence MacMurfee from taking action against Willie Stark.

Burden meets Irwin and persuades him to talk to MacMurfee. However, when Irwin refuses to be pressurized, Jack tries to blackmail him by producing the letter written by Mortimer Littlepaugh. Irwin is shaken but refuses to budge from his stand. Burden leaves with a promise to meet him the next day. That night the Judge shoots himself. Jack hears the news from his mother who also tells him the truth about Irwin being his real father. Jack feels guilty to have caused the death of his own father who had loved him and left him his property.


The chapter highlights the relationship between fathers and sons. First, it throws light on the relationship between Irwin and Jack. Then, it tells about the influence of Tom on Willie Stark. In both cases the fathers have tender feelings towards their offspring but the sons do not reciprocate the feelings of their fathers.

Jack Burden is shown experiencing contradictory emotions in the chapter. At the star0t of the chapter, he feels relieved to have realized the truth about his relationship with Anne and feels energetic to go back to work. He is happy to meet the Boss and his friends Adam and Anne. Enthusiastically, he witnesses a brain operation performed by Adam but feels revolted by the burning smell of wasted matter. Later, at the insistence of Anne, he persuades Adam to continue his job at the medical center.

When Willie Stark asks him to influence Irwin to pressurize MacMurfee, he agrees to do the job though he is not very happy to blackmail the respectable Judge. He meets Irwin and persuades him to act according to the wishes of the Boss. However, when the Judge refuses to interfere in the internal matter of MacMurfee, Jack turns rebellious and blackmails the old man with Mortimer Littlepaugh’s letter. That night when he hears from his mother that Judge Irwin had committed suicide, he feels guilty. And when his mother informs him that Irwin was his father, he experiences a surge of emotions. He is happy to realize that the Scholarly Attorney is not his father and a respectable man like the Judge is his father. However, when he becomes aware of the truth, he is struck with remorse for having killed his own father.

The chapter is revealing as it exposes the truth about the paternity of Jack Burden. When Jack’s mother breaks down after the death of Irwin and reveals the relationship between Jack and the Judge, the readers become aware of her feelings towards Irwin. She and Irwin had been intimate in the past and Jack was the product of their love. This is the reason why the Scholarly Attorney had walked out of her life and Irwin had treated him like a son.

Willie Stark lords over his subordinates and tries to out wit his rivals. However, his son always humbles him. In the past, Tom had embarrassed him by driving rashly with a girlfriend and meeting with an accident. Now, he had made his position awkward by involving himself with a girl and making her pregnant. Whenever his rivals had tried to play dirty, he had snubbed them but now, his opponents were having the last laugh. MacMurfee was trying to blackmail Willie Stark by giving secret protection to Sybil and her father. Stark can do nothing but curse MacMurfee. However, he does not accuse Tom in spite of his son being the root cause of the whole problem.

Willie Stark is protective about Tom but shows no consideration for Sybil. In contrast is the humane Lucy who is willing to consider Sybil as her daughter-in-law and looks forward to taking care of her grand child. She is hurt by Tom’s behavior but does not accuse Sybil for it. Instead of being revengeful, she is thoughtful and considerate towards Sybil.

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