© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
All the King's Men

All the King's Men


by Robert Penn Warren

Jack Burden Timeline and Summary

  • Jack remembers driving to Mason City with Willie in 1936.
  • After dinner with Willie's father, Jack and Willie drive to Burden's Landing, and try to get Judge Irwin to change his mind about his endorsement of a particular political candidate.
  • Willie then asks Jack to look into Irwin's past and find out his secrets.
  • Jack remembers how he got involved with Willie in the first place. He recollects Willie's rise from college dropout, to soft-spoken attorney, to wild speechmaker, to Governor.
  • Jack remembers a visit to his mother in 1933, and tells us a little about his past. He tells the story of how his mother and Ellis Burden met, and how their relationship ended.
  • Jack tells us the story of distant relative, Cass Burden. Telling this story requires Jack to explain why he walked out on his Ph.D. degree in American History.
  • Jack tells us about his investigation of Judge Irwin, and how he learned that the Judge and Governor Stanton (Anne and Adam's father) were involved in some corrupt politics that drove a man to suicide.
  • Meanwhile, at Willie's request, Jack asks Adam to be director of the hospital Willie wants to build.
  • When Anne comes to him for advice on how to convince Adam to take the position, he tells her what he's learned about Irwin, Jack convinces her that revealing the truth to Adam will force him to take the position.
  • This works, but Jack soon learns that Anne and Willie are having an affair.
  • Jack drives to California. On the road trip, he remembers his childhood past with Anne, and his later marriage to Lois Seager.
  • As he remembers he comes to believe in what he calls, the Great Twitch, the idea that all of life is just electrical impulses. The consequence of this theory is that nothing really matters.
  • When Willie needs him to use the dirt on Judge Irwin to stop Tom Stark's blackmailers, Jack goes to Burden's Landing and tries to blackmail the Judge.
  • The Judge shoots himself, and then Jack's mother tells him that Judge Irwin was his real father.
  • Jack is kind of numb from the shock, but tries to do his job.
  • After Adam shoots Willie, Sugar-Boy kills Adam, and Tom dies, Jack tries to deal with everything.
  • Eventually he goes to see Lucy and learns that she has adopted the possible child of Tom and Sibyl and has named him Willie Stark.
  • Jack then goes to Burden's Landing and reestablishes his relationship with Anne.
  • Finally, we learn that Jack and Anne are married, and that Ellis Burden is living with them.
  • Jack plans to finish his book on Cass Burden.
  • He and Anne might leave Burden's Landing at some point.