Study Guide

Anne Stanton in All the King's Men

By Robert Penn Warren

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Anne Stanton

Anne has been cherished and sheltered from birth in the gentle arms of the Burden's Landing's wealthy society. She's a tender, breathy woman whose speech is punctuated by dashes. Jack Burden is hopelessly in love with her, and perhaps at one time, so was Willie Stark. She's a compelling figure, perhaps all the more compelling because we don't get to know her that well.

Since Jack, our narrator, is missing "the story" on major chunks of Anne's life, he can't fill us in either. We don't get to see her in her daily life. We don't see how she is on the job at the Children's Home, or what she's like when she's alone. We only see what Jack sees, and his visions of Anne are often clouded. For obvious reasons, we get the idea that Jack's incredibly biased when it comes to anything concerning Anne. This is why Jack puts Anne on a pedestal one minute, confuses her with his ex-wife, Lois, in his mind the next, and then relegates her to old maid status in the very next breath.

Saint Anne?

Anne's privileged upbringing has never gone to her head. She doesn't come off spoiled or assuming in any way. There doesn't seem to be a single mean bone in her body. Since she doesn't need money, she devotes her life and chunks of her fortune to abandoned children and orphans.

She is vulnerable, but extremely strong – as is demonstrated by how she handles the news that her father and the Judge were in cahoots on a deal that made one man successful (the Judge), and drove another man to suicide.

Like Willie when he learns that Tom won't wake up, Anne tries to use the situation for good. For both the good of the hospital and the good of her brother, Adam. Anne uses the information to convince Adam to take the position of hospital director.

Anne represents the hopefulness of this tragic tale. She is a truly kind person, a person who is trying to make things better. The amazing thing is that she tries to make the world a better place as at great cost to herself.

Anne's Love Life

All the King's Men makes it clear that premarital sex is nothing new. The novel does caution, though, that in the South in the 1920s and 1930s, there could be some heavy implications (as we see with Tom Stark and Sibyl Frey). Still, it seems natural that Anne and Jack would at least want to have sex that summer when she is seventeen and he about twenty-one. They've known each other since they were children, and have probably loved each all along.

So what stops Jack? In part, it's the very thing that makes their relationship intense that gets in the way. Remember, they have known each other forever. Jack has a flashback of a barely pubescent Anne floating in the water, and decides that he can't taint this image of her.

What a blow that must have been to Anne's seventeen-year-old ego. As Jack tells us, if he had gotten down on his knees beside the bed and grabbed her hand after he told her "it wouldn't be right" to have sex with her, "things might have developed differently" (7.444, 445).

How much does this moment impact their future lives? We can only speculate as to the whether this has anything to do with Anne's future relationship with Willie. It is clear, though, that this moment has a lot to do with why Anne and Jack's summer romance fails, and why they can't re-spark things a decade later. After feeling rejected with no explanation, Anne can't risk trusting Jack again.

This leads us back to the novel's overarching argument that only truth can bring hope and healing. It is only when Jack and Anne both come to terms with their family histories that they able to understand each other, and get beyond that moment in the past.

Let's go back in time a bit to Anne's affair with Willie Stark. Though Willie has carried out multiple affairs, the public would consider his relationship with Anne the most scandalous because she's the daughter of an ex-Governor. Not even Sadie Burke wants this scandal to come into the public light.

Anne Stanton in All the King's Men Study Group

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