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All the King's Men

All the King's Men

by Robert Penn Warren

Drugs and Alcohol Theme

The theme of "Drugs and Alcohol" in this novel is closely related to the theme "Transformation." Alcohol plays a big role in transforming protagonist Willie Stark into the enormous powerhouse he becomes. Based on all the drinking that goes on, you sure wouldn't know that All the King's Men is set during the period of American Prohibition. Though alcohol use is a theme in the novel, the novel doesn't seem to be making a specific argument on the morality of its use. Instead it seems to be commenting on the power of alcohol to change a person's personality.

Questions About Drugs and Alcohol

  1. Is Jack an alcoholic? What makes you think so? If so, is he more or less addicted than Willie?
  2. Do you think that if Willie had stopped drinking, he would have lost his political power? Why or why not.
  3. How might alcohol contribute to the novel's tragedies?
  4. What are some of the reasons that people in the novel drink? Why do you think that Jack drinks?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By introducing Willie to alcohol, Jack helps create a monster.

In contrast to a story like John Updike's Rabbit Run, this novel makes a fairly positive argument for alcohol use.

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