Essay on Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men

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Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men “If the human race didn’t remember anything it would be perfectly happy" (44). Thus runs one of the early musings of Jack Burden, the protagonist of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Throughout the story, however, as Jack gradually opens his eyes to the realities of his own nature and his world, he realizes that the human race cannot forget the past and survive. Man must not only remember, but also embrace the past, because it teaches him the truth about himself and enables him to face the future. As he begins to understand the people in his life and their actions, Jack learns that one can rarely make sense of an event until that event has become a part of the past, to be…show more content…
But Jack cannot change the past. Rather, he must reflect on it as it really happened, allowing those reflections to guide his future conduct and to enrich his relationships with those whom he has helped or hurt. By the end of the story, instead of running from his past, Jack has begun to make restoration for its mistakes by finally marrying his beloved Anne and opening his home to Elliot Burden, the man he long believed to be his father. Jack’s contemplation of the past leads him not to despair, but to a deeper understanding of and compassion for the human race. After Jack has grasped the truth that every man has a long heritage of deeds both noble and sinful—deeds that have lessons to teach and consequences to give in the present day—he finds himself able to tell Anne “how if you could not accept the past and its burden there was no future, for without one there cannot be the other, and how if you could accept the past you might hope for the future, for only out of the past can you make the future" (Warren 461). The “burden” of which Jack speaks refers to the accountability of man for his past, to the
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