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All the King's Men

All the King's Men

by Robert Penn Warren

Transformation Theme

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 tries to reconcile its history of slavery with the present post-slavery reality. It's also about how secrets can transform both people and places, how new information sheds light on mysterious childhood memories, and how historical truth can transform a hopeless present into a hopeful one.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Which character changes the most in the novel? How do you know? Which character is most stagnant?
  2. How does Jack change after he reads the story of Cass Mastern? After you read Cass's story, did it transform your feelings about this book? If so, how. If not, why not.
  3. As a young girl, Sadie Burke's face was transformed by small pox. How does this impact her future life? Does it comment on the novel as a whole? If so, how.
  4. Is Willie's state transformed after he runs it for almost two terms? If so, how? In what ways do you think it will stay the same?

Chew on This

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

A look at Anne Stanton's subtle transformation will help us fill in the gaps in Jack's description of her.

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