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All the King's Men
by Robert Penn Warren
All the King's Men Chapter 8 Summary
After the bed in Long Beach, Jack gets up refreshed, and drives into the light, back the way he came. Jack feels that he gained powerful, "secret knowledge." He used to "envy" people with secret knowledge," but now he doesn't have to, because he has it too. In New Mexico he meets an elderly man, who happens to have a "twitch" under his left eye. Jack gives the man a ride, and learns he's also coming from California, headed home to Arkansas. He gets out in Shreveport, Louisiana. Jack thinks the man must have "learned the truth in California." The man's twitch is the evidence. Jack obsesses over what he's learned. He feels "clean and free," and "at one with the Great Twitch." (See Jack's "Character Analysis" for a discussion of this – we know it sounds weird.) Late that night Jack gets home, and goes to bed. In the morning he pays a visit to the Boss, and tells him he took a little vacation. They make small talk, but now that Jack has his secret knowledge, he can't relate to people who don't have it – people like Willie. It's June and Jack goes about his usual business. He sees Adam a few times. Adam is consumed with his work, as usual. One night Adam says he's doing an operation in the morning. Jack asks him about the patient. Adam says that the man has " catatonic schizophrenia," and plans to give the man a prefrontal lobectomy. (For more on this controversial topic, see our "Lobotomy" discussion in Adam's "Character Analysis.") Adam explains that by removing a certain part of the brain, the man, if he lives, will have a "different personality." Jack asks if he can watch the operation, and Adam says yes. Jack watches it. It's pretty rough, involving drilling holes in the skull and "burning" the part of the brain they thought was malfunctioning. The smell of burning brain reminds Jack of the smell of horses burning in a barn that had caught on fire when he was a child. After that, Jack and Adam didn't meet for a while, because Adam was out of town. When Adam returned, he had dinner with Anne, and they went to his apartment afterwards. They are interrupted by a man named Hubert Coffee. Thinking Coffee is a patient, Anne goes to the kitchen. She soon hears Adam yelling at the man to leave immediately. Coffee had tried to bribe Adam into choosing Gummy Larson to build the hospital. Adam had punched him and now wants to resign from his position as hospital director. When Anne gets home, she calls Jack and they meet. She tells him she wants him to stop Adam from resigning. He says he'll get Willie to fire Coffee. Anne offers to testify. Jack tells her he thinks this is a bad idea. If she testifies, Coffee's lawyer will dig up the dirt on her and Willie, and their affair will be made public. Anne says she doesn't care. This angers Jack, and he reminds her that Adam will be there in court looking at her when the affair is revealed. She goes pale, and looks desperate. Jack asks her why she started sleeping with Willie. She says he's different from any man she's known, and that she loves him and he loves her. Willie has proposed to her. She wants to marry him, but later, at a time when a divorce won't hurt him politically. Anne says Jack doesn't know Willie, and she says she's "not sorry […] for anything that's happened." After leaving Anne's, Jack calls Willie and gives him the lowdown. Willie agrees to Jack's suggestion to arrest Coffee, and in the morning Jack goes to Adam's. Jack doesn't want to have Coffee arrested, because this could start a war. First he has to convince Adam to prosecute. Then he has to hint that justice could be better served another way, and let Adam decide not to prosecute. This way, nobody gets hurt, but Adam will feel like he and the Boss are fighting corruption together. As Jack and Adam leave Adam's place, Jack sees the letter of resignation that Adam had written. He grabs it, and tells Adam he won't need it now, and then tears it into pieces. Then Jack rides to Adam's office with him, and hangs out with him as long as possible. He wants to watch him, and make sure he doesn't get any ideas. The summer continues, and Jack does his usual thing, and sees the usual people, like Sadie and the Boss. He doesn't see Anne or Adam for a good while. He also doesn't see Lucy for a good while, but the Boss does. He and Tom would go out to the chicken farm where Lucy was living and have photos made. It was common knowledge that the Boss had women on the side. So, seeing that the Boss could do that, and still hang on to Lucy impressed the voters. They themselves "wanted both Mom's gingerbread, and the black-lace negligee." (Women weren't allowed to vote in the US until 1920 – this is some seventeen years later, but it's obvious Jack is talking about male voters.) Anyhow, these voters could deal with extramarital affairs, but not with divorce. Divorce would have scared them, and disrupted their own sense of well-being. Jack notes that while many of the Boss's mistresses were household names in the state, nobody knew about Anne except for him, Sadie, and probably Sugar-Boy. Jack says that both Sugar-Boy and Sadie are "dependable," meaning they are completely loyal to the Boss. Sadie and the Boss keep up both their affair, and their fighting. We learn of a new intrigue involving Tom Stark. MacMurfee has learned of a man named Marvin Frey, who has a daughter named Sibyl. Sibyl is pregnant and says Tom is the father. Marvin comes to the Boss and voices his accusation. The Boss tells Jack to go find Tom. It takes Jack all day, but he finds him at a fishing lodge with friends. Tom is brought to his father. Jack waits outside until Tom comes out, slamming the door behind him. Willie tells Jack that Tom first said he didn't even know Sibyl. But then admitted that he had slept with her, but so had lots of other guys. Tom didn't think he was the father. Jack is sent to investigate Marvin. Marvin is just an average guy, a barber, and a widower with two daughters. It wouldn't have gone any further, but MacMurfee hears about it, and sends a guy to talk to Willie about it. MacMurfee wants Willie to endorse him for the Senate and shove some cash Sibyl's way. In exchange, MacMurfee will make Frey, who is in his district, calm down and forget the matter. But, as Jack had learned from Anne, the Boss has his eyes on the Senate. But Willie isn't going to play that game. He knows that if MacMurfee and Frey weren't doubtful of their own position, they wouldn't have come to him. Instead, they would have done a surprise attack. In the meantime, Lucy writes Jack, asking him to come visit her on the chicken ranch to talk about Tom. Jack goes – he had decided long ago that if Lucy ever asked him to do something, he would do it. Out at her place, Lucy leads Jack into the parlor. W get a brief description of Lucy. Her hair has recovered from the bad haircut she had when Jack first met her. She still has a good body, and the kind of face you put on a box of cake mix. Lucy gets right to the point – she thinks something is wrong with Tom. She asks Jack to tell her "the truth." So he tells her about Marvin Frey and his daughter Sybil. Lucy says that Tom must marry Sibyl. Jack explains awkwardly that there are other fellows involved. He continues, explaining (less awkwardly) the political side, and MacMurfee's offer. Lucy, upset, says she's tried to love and do right by her son and her husband. She tells Jack that she thinks they love her. This is her only hope, and she has to believe it. The conversation continues this way for a little longer, and then Jack tries to comfort Lucy saying, "It will be all right." Lucy brings up the baby. She tells him the baby is innocent and might be her flesh and blood. As a parting comment, she says she would love the baby if she got the chance. Now Jack works to get Tom (and Willie) out of this mess. The Boss's first plan was to deal directly with Frey. But, MacMurfee anticipates this and gets Sibyl and her dad out of town. MacMurfee sends "one of his boys" to watch them. This guy makes sure that neither Sibyl not her father have unsupervised contact with the outside world. Jack and the Boss try to find out where they are, but are unsuccessful until much later. So, the Boss's plan B is Judge Irwin. The Judge can make MacMurfee do whatever he wants. The Boss calls in Jack and asks if he found the dirt on Irwin. Jack says he did, but that he promised a couple of people he'd show it to Irwin first, giving him a chance to prove his innocence. The Boss wants to know which two people. Jack says he promised himself, and doesn't tell him who the other person (Anne) is. Willie gives his OK, then tells Jack that if the dirt on Irwin is real, he better use it correctly. Jack says he won't "frame" Irwin. Willie says he doesn't want anyone framed. He's never had to ask Jack to frame anyone, because "the truth" is always good enough. Jack accuses Willie of cynicism. In reply, Willie says he learned to think that way in Presbyterian Sunday school. Jack leaves and heads out to Burden's Landing. After breakfast the next morning in his mom's house, Jack takes a walk on the beach. He finds a spot and reads the entire newspaper. A boy and a girl appear on the nearby tennis court, and begin to play. Jack is sad that it isn't he and Anne out there. Suddenly, Jack wants be mean to the boy and girl. He wants to go over and make them stop playing, and warn them about the future. But he knows they wouldn't understand. Jack begins to doubts the Great Twitch theory, but then he knows it's true. Jack goes back home, has a swim, and then has lunch with his mother. He asks his mom, if Judge Irwin is around, and learns that he is. Jack rests for about an hour, and when he comes down from his room, his mother calls to him. She asks if he wants to see Irwin about a political thing. Jack says yes. His mother suggests he see the Judge at a better time. Jack tells her that there is no good time for what he has to tell Irwin. She begs him, saying the Judge is ill. Jack says he has to do it, and walks over to the Judge's. When he arrives, the Judge's black servant tells him the Judge is taking a nap. He says he'll wait, and barges in, headed for the library. In the library, Jack chills out, and soon the Judge arrives. He asks Jack why he didn't make his servant wake him. It's been a long time since he's seen Jack. Jack knows that the last time was when he came with the Boss and Sugar-Boy in the middle of the night. The Judge is very happy to see him, and offers him a drink. Jack declines. The Judge tries to get Jack to drink. But Jack is firm. So the Judge doesn't drink either. Jack hopes the dirt on the Judge is untrue. For a moment he thinks of having that drink after all, and just leaving. He thinks of telling the Boss that there is no truth to what he's found. But something in him needs to know. Jack he genuinely likes him, but still needs to know the truth. He brings up Willie. The Judge say he doesn't "approve" of him, but does "respect him." He admits he was worried about Willie's political power. Jack asks if that's why he was supporting MacMurfee. The Judge says politics is messy and that only with time can we know who is wrong and who is right. He hopes he and Jack can be friends and put politics aside. Jack tells the Judge that since he thinks Willie way of doing things is so bad, he wants to tell him about MacMurfee's way of doing things. He gives him the rundown on the whole Sybil situation. The Judge doesn't like this. Jack tells Judge Irwin that he can easily stop MacMurfee, since the Judge is one of his few friends. Things will go badly for MacMurfee is he keeps pushing this issue, Jack explains, bringing up Sibyl's sexual history. Flatly, Judge Irwin says "No." Trying to persuade him, Jack tells him they will give Sibyl a good deal, even though they will have some evidence in reserve in case she ever tries to come after Tom again. Judge Irwin explains that he isn't concerned about Sibyl, he just doesn't think it's his place to butt into MacMurfee's business. Really begging, Jack asks the Judge to think about it, and decide tomorrow. The Judge says he doesn't need to think about it. His voice quiet, Jack tells the Judge that he tried, that he begged him, and then asks him if he has ever heard of Mortimer L. Littlepaugh. Judge Irwin says no, and Jack can tell he's telling the truth. So Jack asks if he remembers American Electric Power Company. Of course, says the Judge. He was the Power Company's lawyer for some ten years. Jack asks the Judge if he recalls how he got the job. Judge Irwin's memory is jolted. Jack gives him one more chance, before picking up the envelope containing the dirt, and putting it near the Judge. After examining the papers, the Judge can't believe he forgot Littlepaugh's name. He tells Jack that there are days when he doesn't remember any of that stuff at all, like it had happened to another person. It's hard for him to believe it happened to him. Jack tells him it's hard for him to believe, too, and the Judge thanks him for not believing. Now Irwin tells Jack that all this would be worthless in a court of law. Jack says he knows, but reminds the Judge that people have less strict standards than courts do. This would damage the Judge in the eyes of the people. Irwin asks if Willie knows yet, and Jack says no. If the Judge will go ahead and lean on MacMurfee, Jack won't have to tell Willie. Irwin says he can think of other ways to stop Jack, and Jack thinks he might be about to get shot. Laughing the Judge says he wouldn't need a weapon. He could just tell him something, but he won't. Jack wants to know what, but the Judge won't say. So Jack repeats that he'll be back the next day to have the Judge's final decision. Once again the Judge says he won't change his mind. Not saying good-bye, Jack heads leaves. Calling after him, the Judge tells Jack that he did learn something from the papers Jack showed him. He learned that Governor Stanton cared about him so much he gave up his honor to protect him. He wants Jack to understand that. Jack leaves and goes walking back home. He considers going back to Willie and telling him that the Judge wouldn't play ball. Jack decides to wait another day, and goes home to get to sleep. Suddenly, he is awakened by a scream. Then another one comes. After racing to his mother's room, he finds her there, holding the phone. When she sees Jack she screams, "You killed him!" As she is laughing hysterically, Jack demands to know who he killed. She says he killed his father. And that's how Jack learns that Judge Irwin was his father. The Judge's death has pushed Mrs. Murrell over the edge. She babbles about how she loved the Judge, and about how he was Jack's father, and that Jack had killed him. Dr. Bland is on the scene and he gives her a shot of something to sedate her. The doctor orders Jack to stay with his mother until a nurse comes, and not to let anyone see her until he says it's OK. Jack asks the doctor if the Judge had a stroke, and the doctor says no. Judge Irwin shot himself that very afternoon. According to the doctor the Judge shot himself because he was in bad health. The doctor leaves, but Jack runs after him, asking if the Judge shot himself in the head. Nope – he shot himself in the heart. Jack goes back to his mother's room and holds her hand. While he's holding it he wonders why his mother and the Judge never got married, but stops wondering when he sees the question is pointless. Jack realizes his mother really loved the Judge. Before this day he was sure she never really loved any man. Knowing she had loved someone made Jack love her too. A couple of days later Judge Irwin's funeral is held. It's an open casket service. At the funeral, Jack thinks about Mortimer Littlepaugh and the Judge. He thinks that the Judge killed Littlepaugh, and then Littlepaugh killed the Judge. Or maybe it was Jack who killed the Judge, he thinks. After the funeral Jack leaves, now used to the idea that the Judge was his father. He's actually relieved that the Scholarly Attorney is not his father, that he wouldn't be prone to the man's weakness through heredity. The Scholarly Attorney had been a good man, but he had let another man take his wife and make her pregnant. Judge Irwin had not been a good man, but he had been a good Judge. Jack admires the pride that kept the Judge from revealing that he was Jack's father to keep Jack from using the dirt. Soon after Jack gets back in town he gets a call from the executor of the Judge's will. Jack has inherited everything from the Judge. Pondering the irony that this very fortune had been saved by the Judge's betrayal of Littlepaugh, and that Jack had punished him for the crime, Jack bursts out laughing. But then he realizes that he's not laughing, but crying, crying for his poor, dead father.
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