Jan 25, 2018 in Analysis

book All the King’s Men Analysis

Question 1: Which is more effective and powerful, Willie’s speeches and the crowd’s reaction as presented in the film, or in the novel? (Pages 135-144, 219-220). Explain your answer providing specific examples from both the film and the novel.

Willie Stark is portrayed in both the novel as well as the film as a self-righteous man who fights for the truth and justice. According to Woodell (18), the small town lawyer and an idealist is also family man who does not drink because his wife does not allow him. After Stark realized that he was being engineered to divide votes, he steps down from the governor position.  Willy works hard to feed the family. After he steps down from running for governorship, he starts giving speeches which were captivating to the listeners. The public applauds his speeches and expects more from him. Willy is also a farmer’s son who studies at night to become a lawyer. It is though, after the deaths of three children at a school, due to the faulty construction that he becomes a local hero for the community. The man who tried to warn them, but no one listened to them.

Willie like every man who speaks the truth was a lousy candidate for the governor elections. He could not make the crowd listen; his speeches were full of facts and figures and lacking emotion. It was only after Sadie Burke revealed the truth to him that he was set up to split MacMurfee’s voters that he showed some emotion. Enraged, he drunk a whole bottle of whiskey and passed out.

The next day, still drunk and furious over the way he was played, he gave the public his best speech. He told them how he was a foolish hick, like them who had been set up by those in power, suddenly the crowd began to listen. in fact, they could relate to him, and Willie spoke in ordinary words, unlike the rest of the politicians.

After Willy decides to run for governorship, Judge Irwin disapproves him and calls him an opportunist. Willy does not give up and is never distracted. He goes straight for the post and wins. He initiates projects to run and asks Dr Santon to run them for him. The projects become popular and make him a man who fulfills his dreams. Willy maintains a pet project and starts to build a hospital for the neighborhood.

After being criticized by Judge Irwin, and besieged by the political controversy, Willy demands that Jack should dig more sins from the judge and expose them too. Jack becomes adamant but later reveals the most painful facts that Judge Irwin was corrupt in dispensing his duties as a judge. This not a good experience for the judge and he instead considers committing suicide to shield him from the shame.

In the novel,  that speech is even more powerful as he states that he withdraws from the race to support MacMurfee: “But if MacMurfee does not deliver for the little people, nail him to the door”, or he would do it himself.


Question 2: Which is more effective and powerful, the visit with Judge Irwin and the conflicts presented between Willie, Jack and the Judge in the film version, or in the novel? (Pages 62-73) Explain your answer, providing specific examples from both the film and the novel.

Jack Burden is a “brash-bound idealist”. According to him, idealism is exceedingly straightforward: “What you do not know do not hurt you, for it ain’t real. If you are an idealist it does not matter what you do or what goes on around you because it is not real anyway",  But, why would an idealist is working for a man like Willie Stark these days? In his perspective, Willie might have his own methods, but what it comes down to, he is using those methods to help, the best way he can.

The first time, however, he does not agree with Willie is in his conflict with Judge Irwin, the man who Jack loved as a father. The same man raised him after his father abandoned him. The man who shared his love for history of warfare and weapons and at the end is proven to be his biological father. When it comes to the Judge, Jack is not sure whether he agrees with Willie’s methods. Going into the Judge’s house in the middle of the night, threatening him to retract his endorsement; otherwise they would find some dirt from his past. Jack does not feel comfortable threatening a man he respected this much. This is best presented in the film version, because of the three splendid actors, Sean Penn, Antony Hopkins and Jude Law. They are responsible for the strong emotions in the atmosphere, the anger, the betrayal, the gilt.

Question 3: Which works better to show the conflict between Jack and Judge Irwin when Jack threatens to expose the Judge’s involvement in the scandal (regarding the Littlepaugh family): the scene in the film or the version in the novel. In your answer include the reaction of Jack’s mother to Judge Irwin’s suicide.

When Jack discovers that the perfect gentleman who treated him as a son, the eminent Judge Irwin has something hidden in his past, he feels the need to confront the Judge himself. He travels to Burden’s Landing and visits the Judge at his house. The Judge seems happy to see him and apologizes for their last conversation. Jack nonetheless, asks the Judge to call MacMurfee off, and when he refuses, he threatens him with the information he found regarding Littlepaugh’s suicide and the bribe. This annoys the Judge, and consequently Willy is told to keep off. This however, does not leave the judge in peace. He is troubled about his status and his “reputation” that he has build for many years (Scott 32).

It is that same blackmail that led the Judge to commit suicide. The reality was too much to bear. When Jack returns home, he hears a scream from his mother’s room and he finds her on the floor crying and screaming that he killed the Judge. He was responsible for his death, the death of his father. That is when Jack finds out the truth about his family.

What is more, Judge Irwin took a bullet to the heart to reveal the secret that haunted him all these years the love for his son. Then Jack learns that the bribe that Judge took was for him to have something to inherit and was a blessing in disguise. Him, who blackmailed him using that same information, He was responsible for the death of his father, whose only sin was for him.

This feels like a Greek tragedy of modern Democratic politics. However on the film, it is shown on a velvet wallpaper version, where neither the politics nor the family intrigue makes some sense (Steven 37).  Stark also comes to embrace various forms of corruption and uses patronage and intimidation to accomplish his mission. Dr. Stanton revealed  that the hospital is as a result of the governor's political and personal gain. He  waits for Stark at the state capitol to  assassinate him, but is shot and murdered by Stark`s bodyguard.

Question 4: Which provides more dramatic power and closure for the viewer, the last few scenes in the film when the Boss and Adam Stanton are murdered, or the ending of the novel?

On a rainy day, Adam Stanton murders Willie Stark because he found out he had an affair with his sister and thinks that is the reason he was offered the directorship of the hospital. Two funerals, of two righteous men who did not deserve to die. At least that is the way it is portrayed in the film, but it leaves so many things unsaid.

It fails to show how Willie changed after his son’s accident. How he decided to go back to his wife and ended the affair with Anne. Moreover, it does not show that the reason behind Willie and Adam’s deaths were Sadie and Tiny and what Tiny told Adam to make him murder Willie at the first place. After the entire book is called “the entire King’s Men” and it focuses on the ultimate betrayal to the “King” by his “Men”, which led to his death.

What is more, the film fails to show how Willie became who he was again at the end, a righteous man whom power corrupted. A man who made a mistake and regretted. Nonetheless, the film does not show what happened to the rest of the characters, Jack, Anne, Lucy, Tom, Sadie, Tiny and even Sugar Boy. What is written in the New York Times is the truth especially regarding the ending of the film: “All the King’s Men make a lot of promises, but fails to deliver the goods” (Steven 12).

According to Woodell (28), the film had notable lessons because of its central focus of Sean Penn as Huey Long, the Kingfisher, and the every person governor of the depression-era Louisiana. If ever there existed a role meant for Penn's heated and emotive style of acting, this was it. Faithful to that to that promise, Penn brings colorful scenes with Willie Stark bringing fire and brimstone from the campaign trails.


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