Religious Motif's in All the King's Men Essay

751 Words Jan 15th, 2013 4 Pages
Religion: A Rectifying Route

Robert Penn Warren, in his novel All The King’s Men, examines the modern man’s quest to live a simple existence—a life, void of sin, in which man endeavors to discover truth. Jack Burden, the novel’s protagonist and narrator, is thrust onto the political scene when his managing editor instructs him to travel up to Mason City to “see who the hell that fellow Stark is who thinks he is Jesus Christ” (51). The comparison between Willie Stark, the governor of Louisiana, and Jesus Christ emerges as an important association because, even though Jack knows of Willie’s corruption and sin, he reveres Willie as a father figure; Jack’s search for the truth, the identity of his father, is one of the main crises in the
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Suggesting that Willie’s ability to make intelligent political decisions results from this self knowledge, Warren implicitly states that Willie’s hospital project is his attempt to right all of his wrongs—to rectify all of his sins he has committed in the political arena. Warren suggests a major theme of the novel: man is “finite and corrupt” and is constantly striving to discover the “infinite and incorruptible” (Beebe 126). Through this religious concept of the pervasiveness of sin, Warren describes Willie as half genius, half demon: he plans schools, roads, straightforward tax plans and a hospital for the poor while also cruelly crushing his political opponents, and using bribes and manipulation for electoral gain.
On the other hand, Warren uses religion to challenge Jack Burden on his ultimate quest for truth. When Adam Stanton explains how a person would be different if they survived a lobectomy, Jack wonders: “Like after you get converted and baptized?” (316). Jack’s mindset, clearly technical and systematic, shows he is merely regurgitating fact. Jack’s mention of religious ceremony and tradition shows his simple and “scientific” perception of truth. Furthermore, Jack’s desire to attach truth to simple recitation of fact is complicated when he recognizes a different kind of truth in Willie. Jack, after having done months of research to collect dirt for Willie, reveals to Judge Irwin that he knows of the…