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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Visions of America

All the King's Men argues that the U.S.'s history of slavery continues to haunt generations of Americans and impacts Americans' view of themselves. The novel questions how a hopeful vision of Ameri...

Politics

Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece gives us politics from an insider's view. Jack Burden, ace historian and thorough "student of history," breaks down the seamy side of souther...

Memory and the Past

Jack Burden, the narrator of All the King's men, just can't stay out of the past. The book itself is one extended memory that Jack has after events detailed in the book have already happened. The s...

Transformation

All the King's Men is about the subtle and extreme ways characters change over the course of a novel, and the events that factor into these changes. It's also about a transforming America, which tr...

Education

Education finds its way into just about every aspect of this novel. In fact, it's a contract to build a schoolhouse that gives Willie Stark, the novel's hero, his inroad to politics and power. Thro...

Slavery

Most of All the King's Men is set in the 1920s and 1930s in the American South. For almost an entire chapter, though, we are plunged backwards in pre-Civil War times. This antebellum narrative seem...

Love

By the end of All the King's Men we realize that our narrators long journey down memory lane is a labor of love for the truth, and for the belief that the truth will set us free. Over the course of...

Race

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 th...

Religion

All the King's Men doesn't delve too deeply into religion, but it does look at the role of religious rhetoric in politics, and at some other ways people use religion as a tool. Not to say that the...

Drugs and Alcohol

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 be...
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