Essay For "All The King's Men" By Robert Penn Warren. Man As A Slave To Knowledge

1423 words - 6 pages

In Robert Penn Warren's novel, All the King's Men, Jack Burden states, "The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing a man can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him (9)." Jack's statement reveals that man is enslaved by knowledge. Familiar sayings such as, "Ignorance is bliss," and, "what you don't know can't hurt you" also state this point. Examples of knowledge enslaving man are seen in the novel through the characters of Willie Stark, Adam Stanton and Jack Burden.Willie Stark is a character that attempts to conquer knowledge, even though in the end, he is overcome by the forces of knowledge. Willie did not want to be a slave to knowledge, but rather, ...view middle of the document...

"Under the picture was the legend: My study is the heart of the people. In quotation marks, and signed, Willie Stark (6)." Willie Stark studies people, rather, voters, and what they want to hear from him. When the people hear what they want to hear from Willie, they are satisfied and will vote him in office. Willie learned this important lesson through Jack Burden. After Willie gave a speech filled with facts and figures that left the audience apathetic, Jack told him this:Yeah, I heard the speech. But they don't give a damn about that. Hell, make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em think you're their weak erring pal, or make 'em think you're God-Almighty. Or make 'em mad. Even mad at you. Just stir 'em up, it doesn't matter how or why, and they'll love you and come back for more. Pinch 'em in the soft place. ...Tell 'em anything. But for Sweet Jesus' sake don't try to improve their minds (72).Upon hearing this and pondering it, Stark became like a slave to this knowledge. This lesson became a part of his political personality. But despite his use of knowledge to enslave others, Stark becomes victim of Adam Stanton, who is prisoner of his then recent enlightenment.Adam Stanton grew up as the best friend of Jack Burden, and the son of prominent Governor Stanton. Adam is a character who is a captive of his belief that his father was perfect and that he should live up to the same greatness. Thus he works most of his life striving to be the best, trying to be perfect like his father. He works to be the best in the medical profession, becoming a surgeon. Adam often spends his free time practicing the piano, again trying to become perfect. Jack said that "most of the time when I was at Adam's apartment he would be at the piano (101)." Adam's life, however, is affected by the knowledge of his father's corruption. When Jack gives a photostat incriminating Governor Stanton to Anne, Adam's sister, she then shows it to Adam. "I gave them to him--those things--and he read them and then he just stood there--he didn't move--he didn't make a sound--and his face was white as a sheet and I could hear him breathing (253)." His most basic belief that his father was perfect and that he should be too is shattered as he learns the truth of his father's shady deal. Governor Stanton protected Judge Irwin when he took a bribe. The knowledge of his father's imperfection does not hit Adam in full right away. It is the culmination of the knowledge about his father and the knowledge about his sister that overwhelms him. Adam soon obtains the knowledge of his sister Anne's affair with Willie Stark. Adam believes that Willie appointed him at the hospital not because of his skills, but because he is having an affair with his sister. T...


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