All the King's Men (1949)
- Summaries (4)
The rise and fall of a corrupt politician, who makes his friends richer and retains power by dint of a populist appeal.
Jack Burden is a newspaper reporter who first hears of Willie Stark when his editor sends him to Kanoma County to cover the man. What's special about this nobody running for county treasurer? He's supposedly an honest man. Burden discovers this to be true when he sees Stark delivering a speech and having his son pass out handbills, while the local politicians do their best to intimidate him. Willie Stark is honest and brave. He's also a know-nothing hick whose schoolteacher wife has given him what little education he has. Stark loses the race for treasurer, but later makes his way through law school, becoming an idealistic attorney who fights for what is good. Someone in the governor's employ remembers Stark when the governor needs a patsy to run against him and split the vote of his rival. The fat cats underestimate Stark; but Jack Burden, Stark's biggest supporter, overestimates the man's idealism. To get where he wants to go, Willie Stark is willing to crack a few eggs - which include his tough-talking assistant, Sadie Burke; Jack's poised and elegant fiancée, Anne Stanton; and even Jack Burden himself.
The story of Willie Stark, an unassuming, unsophisticated idealistic farmer who becomes Governor of his state, and Jack Burden, reporter and Stark ally. We see how Stark fights his way up from lowly beginnings, initially failing at politics but then succeeding. However, once in office, the ideals slip, the standards fall and the power leads to corruption. Burden should be his conscience, but he finds himself going along for the ride.
All The King's Men is the story of the rise of politician Willie Stark from a rural county seat to the spotlight. Along the way, he loses his initial innocence, and becomes just as corrupt as those who he assaulted before for this characteristic. Also included is the romance between one of his "right hand women" and the up-and-coming journalist who brings Stark to prominence.
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