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Themes

All the King's Men is set mostly in the Deep South in the 1920s and 1930, and you don't need us to tell you that racism was rampant and harsh in that setting. Since all of the main characters in the novel are white, racism seems to be a minor theme in the novel. But by the time all the stories are told, it's clear that issues of racism and slavery are hugely important to the novel. The novel suggests that exposing historical racism, and exposing hidden secrets of antebellum (pre-Civil War) life are our only hope for overcoming racism.

Questions About Race

  1. How do you feel about Jack's racially charged language? Why does he use it? Is it because of his place and time? Because he doesn't know any better? Because it what he's been taught.
  2. Does Jack feel superior to non-whites? Does his racist speech continue throughout the book? If not, when does he stop? Does Jack's racist speech consistent with his actions, or is there a contrast?
  3. Is racism a political tool in the novel? If so, how is it used?
  4. Why are the people in the state so stuck in the slavery moment, years and years after the Civil War?
  5. Do Jack and Willie succeed in their quest to bring the people up into the present?

Chew on This

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

All the King's Men offers us a fictional history of racism that helps us understand racism in real life.

When we realize that the Mason County boys are just using racism to cover up their greed, we understand that the extent to which greed can corrupt the human race.

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