All The King 's Men

1738 Words7 Pages
Oxford Dictionaries defines the word responsibility as “The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone” (1). From a young age, every person must accept responsibility for decisions that he or she makes. As situations arise that must be dealt with, people have a duty to deal with those situations. In many ways, the act of living itself is an act of ultimate responsibility. In Robert Penn Warren’s classic novel, All the King’s Men, the central characters of the novel all have to deal with the consequences of their actions, although many of the characters try to avoid this solemn duty of life. Through analyzing the actions and inactions of the central characters, many important lessons on responsibility can be derived from the novel.
Jack Burden, the narrator of the novel, ultimately learns to accept responsibility by realizing the inevitability of making decisions. As a historian, Jack frequently and desperately clings to the past throughout the novel. Often, he dangerously substitutes the past of others for his own present, believing that he can evade change by dwelling in the stagnant world of the past and never proactively making his own choices. However, after the death of Judge Irwin, Willie Stark, and Adam Stanton, Jack realizes that his insistence to live in the past— his indecision in the present— has major consequences in his own life and in the lives of those he cared for. Jack ultimately discovers that change— the very

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