All the King's Men
In this All the King’s Men essay, we look at how the narrator, Jack, uses the card game as a metaphor to explore a number of different themes. Some of these themes include hopelessness, corruption and a lack of certainty about the future. Take, for instance, his discovery that Judge Irwin - Adam and Anne’s father - was involved in a scandalous bribery affair along with Governor Stanton. This is represented in the card game in the form of tricks employed by some of the players. Card players often feel a sense of hopelessness and are in need of some activity to pass the time or for financial gain. The way Jack describes the lives of Judge Irwin and Governor Stanton represents this notion (Warren 149).
This story would appear to question how significant aspirations are. The cards metaphor demonstrates how far people can and will go to achieve their dreams. They sometimes, for instance, play card games in a legal or illegal sense to get money. Jack would appear to believe that money is the root of most ills. Although Anne does not respond when he questions her on whether the Judge has ever behaved improperly or been involved in wrongdoing, Adam does disclose that Judge Irwin was the subject of financial restrictions at an earlier time (1913 and 14). Anne later discloses that Irwin married money as a solution to his financial problems. Yet, the novel goes on to disclose that money was not the Judge’s motivation for marrying since his wife, Mabel, was also struggling financially during the marriage. Searching deeper, it is revealed that Judge Irwin had accepted a bribe to resolve a criminal case involving the Southern Belle Fuel People (Warren 150).
For the purpose of this All the King’s Men essay, it is suggested the novel demonstrates that, like a card game, people take many gambles in life. The card game metaphor is successful in terms of developing the entire story’s theme and structure insofar as the lives of the story’s characters are not dissimilar to a game of cards.
Why the Way Jack Describes Anne is Significant
Jack’s handling of Anne seems unfeeling and almost dispassionate, yet there is a hint of concealed emotion. The characters of the Stanton siblings - both Anne and her brother Adam - are critical in this particular chapter. They are Governor Stanton’s children and are friends of Jack since childhood. In his description of Anne, Jack believes Anne’s feelings towards her background and her father is more favorable than Jack’s are of his own. When she lights the fire in the family home, there is a suggestion of respect for the past, which does not go unnoticed by Jack. Although she is a childhood friend of Jack, she differs from him in a number of ways. She works as a volunteer in a home for children and, despite helping other people, she feels her life lacks achievement. She is driven to achieve the things that previous generations set out to achieve and did achieve (Warren 156).
The relationship between Anne and Jack is quite mysterious. Jack confesses that he once proposed marriage to Anne, but she declined. However, from Jack’s words, it would seem they are still friends and close. It would seem Anne depends on Jack in times of trouble and, for his part, Jack seems very devoted to her. The way he describes her, however, is just an indicator of their relationship, which is expounded on in great detail later.
From his description, Anne would seem a breathy woman who is also softhearted and hard to fathom. Jack loves her deeply. The character of Anne is compelling, largely because Jack does not know her entire life story. Consequently, his description could be biased because he sometimes mixes her up with his former wife and consigns her to the stereotypical role of spinster.
How This Relates to the Novel’s Meaning
The card game metaphor and the way the narrator describes Anne provides insight into what will happen later. In any case, these provide the backdrop for the different themes that the novel explores e.g. love, politics, corruption and other life trials and it gives the reader a hint of what to expect later. Additionally, the card game metaphor is essential because, in later chapters, the small-time crimes cause Jack and Adam to forego their idealism.