all the king’s men

All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren

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  1. A FEW GEMS from this great novel:

    – THE FORCE OF LUCK:

    “And so my luck became my wisdom (as the luck of the damned human race becomes its wisdom and gets into the books and is taught in schools)” (p. 447).

    and

    “So now I had my drink, and looking at him, marveled how little is required for a man to be lost or saved (p. 360).

    – THE POWER OF THE AD HOMINEN ARGUMENT:

    “The Boss didn’t answer anything Petit had said, he simply took care of the sayer. The Boss knew all about the so-called fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem. ‘It may be a fallacy,’ he said, ‘but it is shore-God useful. If you use the right kind of argumentum you can always scare the hominem into a laundry bill he didn’t expect.'” (p. 346).

    – THE PAST VIS-A-VIS THE FUTURE:

    “As she lay there the image came into my head, and I had wanted to call her name, to tell her something—what, I did not know. She trusted me, but perhaps for that moment of hesitation I did not trust myself, and looked back upon the past as something precious about to be snatched away from us and was afraid of the future. I had not understood then what I think I have now come to understand: that we can keep the past only by having the future, for they are forever tied together (pp. 466-467).

    and

    “They had this in common: they were all hiding. The difference was in what they were hiding from. The two others were hiding from the future, from the day when they would get degrees and leave the University. Jack Burden, however, was hiding from the present. The other two took refuge in the present. Jack Burden took refuge in the past” (pp. 239-240).

    And of course, one of the (I think) most important themes of the novel:

    – THAT WE ARE NOT INERT IN THE WORLD, THAT ALL ACTIONS AND INACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES:

    The protagonist Jack Burden initially thinks that he is and should be inert:

    “‘You needn’t choke me,’ I protested peevishly, ‘and I don’t want to listen. I know too God-damned much now.’ And I wasn’t joking. I didn’t want to listen. The world was full of things I didn’t want to know” (p. 212).

    and

    “for nothing ever happened to Jack Burden, who was invulnerable. Perhaps that was the curse of Jack Burden: he was invulnerable” (p. 239).

    but then later, as we learn the history of Cass Mastern:

    “He learned that the world is like an enormous spider web nd if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter” (p. 283).

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