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All the King's Men

All the King's Men

by Robert Penn Warren

All the King's Men Chapter 3 Summary

  • Even though Jack knows what to expect when he goes home to visit his mom, he's always surprised.
  • He always comes home believing that his mother, Mrs. Murrell, considers him just another one of her men. (Apparently, she needs to have men around her, and she knows how to make them do what she wants.)
  • She always greets him with innocent eyes, and grabs his coat and pulls him toward her.
  • This time, in 1933, is no different.
  • Jack was last home about eight months ago, and he and his mother had fought about his job with Willie. (The fighting between mother and son is nothing new. What is new, is that now it's about Willie.)
  • When he gets to his mom's place, she pushes Jack on the couch and puts a drink in his hand. In the light of the fire Jack sees how small she is, and how "hungry" the space under her cheek is.
  • (You are going to hear lots about this check thing. We talk about it in her "Character Analysis."
  • When Jack was old enough to know, he decided that it was that space under her cheekbone that made her irresistible to men.)
  • We then get a detailed description of his mother: she has yellow and gray metallic hair, perfectly done. You can tell she spends lots of money on her hair, and it's worth it.
  • Jack thinks his mother is looking good for 54. Next to her, 35 feels old.
  • (Since Jack's 35 in 1933, he was born in1898.)
  • When Jack's drink is done, she says he looks like he's tired. He says he isn't. She insists that he is and pulls him toward her. He tries to resist, but can't. Soon he is "on [his] back, with [his] head on her lap." She has one hand on his chest; with the other she is touching his face.
  • She asks him about his work, and brings up Willie. She says Theodore (her husband) could get him a job.
  • He tries to get up but she pushes him down, covering his eyes with her hand.
  • Soon Jack hears Theodore Murrell coming in and he tries to get up again, but she pushes him down again, and doesn't let him up until her man in the room.
  • Jack gets to his feet and observes the man who has "a beautiful blond mustache," and "taffy colored hair."
  • Theodore kisses his wife, who grabs him and pushes him toward Jack.
  • He asks Jack how he's doing, calling him "the old politician."
  • Theodore says he knows Jack and the Governor are tight. Jack responds that the Governor is only tight with himself.
  • Mrs. Murrell tells them to sit, and Jack looks at the furniture.
  • Every time he comes home, his mother has some new, expensive furniture in the room. He compares her home to a beautiful museum, and which he has known all his life.
  • Pieces of furniture are not the only things that have changed; the people coming and going have changed as well.
  • The first change happened when his father left.
  • Jack asked his mother if his father was dead. She said he wasn't, but that Jack could pretend he was. When asked why he left, she told Jack it was, "Because he didn't love Mother." Jack told her he would always love her. (He was about six when his father, whom he calls the "Scholarly Attorney," left.)
  • After the "Scholarly Attorney", she married "the Tycoon," a.k.a. "Daddy Ross." The Tycoon was fairly advanced in age and soon died.
  • Then she scooted over to Europe and brought back Covelli, a.k.a. "the Count." Covelli bruised his mother's arm, but was a great horse rider.
  • After the Count came the current husband, the "Young Executive," who is 44.
  • Jack has sat in the room with all those different men, and all the different furniture.
  • It rains for several days while Jack is at Burden's Landing. Jack goes on walks in the rain, and briefly visits Judge Irwin.
  • During his stay at his mother's house, Jack walks to the cove off the bay, and remembers picnicking there with Anne and Adam Stanton as a boy.
  • Jack goes into a flashback.
  • One day he, Anne, and Adam came here to swim and fish.
  • Toward the afternoon it looked like rain, and Adam wanted to head indoors.
  • But Anne wanted to swim. She was determined and ran toward the water, pulling Adam with her.
  • Jack was watching her run, when he suddenly realized that Adam was watching him watch Anne.
  • The two young men raced to the water.
  • Adam, an ace swimmer, swam way out at sea. Anne dove under the water like a seal, and then floated on her back. Jack followed suit. At one point he watched her float. Her arms were spread, her eyes closed, and her hair fanned out. A seagull was flying over head.
  • Then she broke the pose and swam in to shore.
  • Jack followed and it started to rain.
  • On the shore they watched nervously as Adam came back to shore.
  • Adam and Jack were seventeen then, and Anne around thirteen.
  • Jack never forgets the picnic, because it's the first time he understood that Anne and Adam are truly individuals.
  • He might have understood even that day that he is also an individual person.
  • Why the heck is all this importance attached to that picnic?
  • Because Jack got the picture of Anne floating stuck in his head, and could never get it out again.
  • Over the years this image becomes increasingly meaningful.
  • He didn't fall in love with her then, but he admits that he's been in love with her for years, off and on.
  • The first time he fell in love with Anne was in 1915, just before he left for college.
  • We then get an in-depth perspective on Jack's life.
  • At the time when he first fell for Anne, his mother was pressuring to attend a fancy school. Jack insisted on going to his State university. She was shocked, and found it hard to believe a man would not give in to her demands.
  • Later, when Jack was working hard to pay for school himself, he regretted refusing to let her pay.
  • Still, she always sent him money for his birthday and Christmas.
  • Jack wasn't accepted into the army because he had "bad feet."
  • Jack abruptly switches to thinking about Judge Irwin. The Judge enjoyed the war, feeling that all his historical study of war was put to good use.
  • Jack thinks back to before the war when young Jack helped the Judge build models of various war machines. Through these models, Jack learned about the history of war.
  • The Judge was "a brave man" both in and out of the army. Once a man the Judge had sentenced to prison saw the Judge on the street and said he wanted to kill him. The Judge had laughed, and took away the gun that was pointed at him.
  • After this trip down memory lane, Jack goes to dinner with his mother and the Young Executive at Judge Irwin's house.
  • They are joined by the Pattons, a couple who lives nearby.
  • In what Jack thinks is an attempt to set him up, somebody has also invited a girl named Dumonde.
  • Everybody talks about "old times" during dinner. As guest of honor, Jack is the focus.
  • Before dessert, someone brings up the models Jack and the Judge used to make.
  • The Judge gets out a twenty-inch model of a ballista. He props it up on the table demonstrates that the thing works. He fires a bread pellet. It hits the chandelier, scaring Mrs. Patton, and throwing glass shards on the table.
  • Jack checks out the ballista and notices that someone has recent worked on it.
  • Jack liked the memory of the Judge working on the models, but knowing that the Judge still does somehow cheapens the memory.
  • Talk turns to Jack's job, a conversation which he evades.
  • Dumonde keeps saying that Jack's job in politics is "fascinating."
  • Mr. Patton tells Jack to ask Willie how he'll feel when he's impeached, and implies that Willie is corrupt.
  • The Judge defends Willie, saying that the Governor has improved social services. He adds that Willie has "broken plenty of eggs" and might "make his omelets."
  • Then the political conversation gets hotter as they get deeper into things.
  • Jack notices that they talk about Willie as if Jack is loyal to them over Willie.
  • (Jack is not sure if he is or not, but he doesn't like that they assume it.)
  • He asks why, if the previous leaders had done so much for the people, was Willie able to break up corruption?
  • Silence.
  • The Pattons are shocked. They can't believe Jack is in favor of Willie.
  • He says he's just asking a question.
  • The political arguments continue until the evening ends.
  • The next day Jack asks his mom who Dumonde is. Apparently she's a girl who will inherit money.
  • Jack says he's not interested in money but he could get as much money as he wanted any day.
  • Mr. Murrell warns him not to take "graft," (i.e., getting money through illegal means). Jack clarifies that he's talking about selling information for money. But he doesn't want money, and neither does the Boss.
  • Jack's mother doesn't like the way her son is talking and expresses concern for him. In general, Jack seems different to her. If only he would get a nice girl, and let the Judge or Theodore get him a job.
  • Jack responds that he doesn't want any of those things. She asks him if he knows that everything she has is his, holding his hand tightly.
  • Jack apologizes. After dinner, he leaves Burden's Landing.
  • Driving in the rain, Jack thinks about why he is in this car tonight.
  • Begin flashback.
  • In 1896 the "Scholarly Attorney," who was about 44 at the time, was investigating a land case at a "lumber town in Arkansas".
  • Jack's never seen the town, or even Arkansas, but he can picture the scene vividly.
  • He imagines a girl there, with blond braids, a pale green dress, and amazing cheekbones. She is standing on the steps of the commissary, where her father works.
  • The "Scholarly Attorney" spends his evening walking with the girl. When his legal business is over, he takes the girl home to the house on the ocean built by his father's father (the house Jack just left).
  • She is fascinated by the ocean, but soon gets used to it.
  • Because "the Scholarly Attorney went to Arkansas," and because "the girl was on the steps," Jack Burden's parents got together. This is the reason why he is alive tonight, driving a car in the rain.
  • Now back to the present…
  • Jack gets to his hotel at 12pm. There are urgent messages for him to call Sadie Burke.
  • Something crazy has happened and she wants Jack to get to her hotel immediately.
  • Sadie is sitting outside "Suite 905" by the phone stand, and chain smoking.
  • Jack arrives and kisses her hard on the forehead.
  • She tells him to go in and see the Boss.
  • He finds Willie with Byram B. White, the State Auditor. Willie is humiliating the man, taking him to task for some financial issue. Finally, Willie tells Byram to write a letter of resignation, sign it, and leave it undated. If Willie ever wants to get rid of him, all he has to do is fill in the date. Willie isn't firing Byram, but feels sure he'll stay honest now.
  • (Willie has letters like this for most of his employees. If they don't do what he wants, he just has to fill in the date.)
  • The Boss explains that Byram didn't have to take it. He could have walked out, let Willie fire him.
  • Willie tells him Byram had put together some kind of corrupt get-rich-quick scheme. Somebody leaked it to rival politicians and it was in the papers.
  • On to the next topic of discussion, Willie says they need to focus on rumors that he's going to face impeachment proceedings. He wants Jack to lean on some people, and gather dirt on others.
  • Sadie comes in and announces that Hugh Miller, the Attorney General is here to see Willie.
  • Hugh enters and wants to know why Willie isn't firing Byram White, even though the guy is clearly guilty.
  • Willie's logic is that it's more important to keep his administration intact than to get rid of one corrupt man in a system full of corrupt men.
  • Hugh doesn't think Byram should be allowed to commit a felony and get away with it. He's giving Willie his resignation out of protest. Willie comments that Hugh is too concerned with keeping his hands clean, but hopes they can remain friends.
  • After Hugh leaves, Willie tells Jack that Lucy is leaving him.
  • Jack is surprised, and asks if it's because Willie is sleeping with Sadie. Willie responds that it's because he wouldn't fire Byram.
  • Willie says he plans to build a new hospital, a great free facility for everybody to use.
  • Jack tells us that he couldn't imagine that Lucy didn't know about the Boss's infidelities. He remembers when he found out.
  • Begin flashback.
  • Willie and Jack had gone to Chicago eight months after Willie was elected. A man named Josh Conklin was in charge of showing them the town. Josh took them to a club that featured exotic ice skaters. Willie had never seen anything like it, and he hooked up with one of the skaters.
  • Jack doesn't know if Lucy knew about that, but he knew Sadie did.
  • When the two men got back from Chicago, Sadie confronted Jack. Her short crazy hair and her pale, pockmarked face made her look like a "plaster-of-Paris mask of Medusa" but with burning eyes. She couldn't believe Willie would "two-time" her, and was furiously screaming about ruining and killing him.
  • Jack explained that maybe Willie is three or four timing Sadie, but the only one he's two-timing is Lucy. Sadie sputtered about Lucy for a bit, and then claimed that Willie will leave her eventually. Jack got slapped for basically agreeing.
  • Sadie cried, and tried to pump Jack for information about the skater's looks. She took Jack's hand and made him feel her face, explaining that she and her brother had smallpox. Her father was an alcoholic, and didn't take care of them, and her brother died of the disease. Her father then alternated between drunkenly kissing her pocked face, and slapping it. It was as if she was being punished because she had lived and her brother had died.
  • Jack suggested she "let [Willie] go." Sadie couldn't imagine doing it, partly because she knows Willie needs her, and because she knows he'll always come back to her.
  • Jack tells us she was right.
  • End flashback.
  • As for Lucy, she doesn't leave Willie over the Byram White incident. Willie's enemies were turning up the heat on the impeachment thing, and she might have felt bad leaving him at such a time.
  • During this period, Willie travels all around giving powerful speeches. Jack is with him, waiting for the inevitable roar of the crowd that Willie always manages to provoke.
  • In addition to Willie's speeches, and the roar of the crowd, there are several scenes of blackmail and intimidation.
  • Jack describes one such scene.
  • On April 5th, a crowd gathered at the Capitol building, chanting "Willie, Willie, Willie – We want Willie!"
  • Jack is looking down from a second floor window when he sees a black car arrive. Tiny Duffy gets out and announces to the crowd that Willie will talk to them at 8pm tonight.
  • Jack knows Willie will tell them that the impeachment if off, and that he is still Governor. He knows because the night before he blackmailed a guy into putting his signature on a piece of paper withdrawing the impeachment proceedings.
  • Willie does speak to the crowd on the night of April 5.
  • Jack is there with Adam and Anne Stanton. When the speech is over, he leaves them and rides to the Mansion with Willie and Sugar-Boy.
  • Willie tells Jack he's afraid Lucy is turning their son Tom into "a sissy." He's mad because she made Tom stay home and study instead of letting him hear Willie speak.
  • Tiny Duffy shows up with a bunch of men, wanting to celebrate. The Boss tells them to go party in a more secluded part of the house, because Lucy is trying to rest.
  • We then get the inside scoop about Lucy and Willie's relationship.
  • Lucy didn't leave Willie then, nor after he won a second term as Governor in 1934.
  • Eventually she did leave, but quietly.
  • She went on a trip to Florida, and then moved to her sister's "poultry farm and hatchery" outside of Mason City.
  • Tom was a star football quarterback by then.
  • She did put in public appearances with Willie from time to time. One example is that day in 1936, when Willie and Jack went to visit Judge Irwin in the night. Sometimes Willie would even visit Lucy at the poultry farm and have a family picture taken for the papers.

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