Study Guide

All the King's Men Religion

By Robert Penn Warren

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And since the Lord moves in a mysterious way, it should not have surprised Willie that He was using some fat men in a striped pants and a big car to do His will. (2.162)

Jack always uses this semi-sarcastic tone when talking about Willie's feeling that he was called to save the state. Since we don't ever get into Willie's head, we can't know how he feels about religion.

I told [Tiny] he better go ahead and distribute the loaves and fishes and pray God for Willie to arrive by two o'clock. (2.396)

Jack is constantly comparing Willie to Christ. Part of this is a comment on what the people of the state want. They want their political leader to be as close to their idea of Jesus as possible.

[Willie Stark:] "And it came to him with the powerful force of God's own lightening […]" (2.447)

Willie goes all out in this first speech (during which is completely drunk). He flat out tells the people he was chosen by God, and brings up the issue of the schoolhouse to prove it.

But for the present I would lie there […] and feel the holy emptiness and blessed fatigue of a saint after the dark night of the soul. (7.179)

This is Jack's third period of the Great Sleep. It seems like this sleep is almost a religion to Jack when he experiences it. When life gets too heavy or too light, some people turn to God, and some turn to other things. Jack turns to sleep.

But those tracts he wrote were crazy, I thought back then. I thought God cannot be Fullness of Being. (3.421)

Ellis Burden's religious beliefs have a lot to do with Jack's general cynicism toward all things religious looking, sounding, or tasting. This lines suggest that Jack might, at the end of the story, have come to see something true in what he originally thought was "crazy."

You are at one with the Great Twitch. (8.14)

Jack calls this a "mystical experience" but doesn't realize he's in danger of reliving what went down between Ellis and his mother. Ellis found out about Jack's mother and Judge Irwin, and he created his own special brand of Christianity. Jack finds out about Anne and Willie and creates his own "religion" to deal with it.

[Willie Stark:] "He'll be all right."

[Lucy Stark:] "God grant it." (9.298-99)

This conversation between Lucy and Willie is repeated several times as they wait to learn about Tom. Willie can't surrender his hope for his son to God. Yet, it's all Lucy can do.

But later, much later, he woke up one morning to discover that he did not believe in the Great Twitch anymore. (10.438)

Jack doesn't tell us if he found a religion to replace the Great Twitch. If the pattern of his life holds, Jack will continue to ponder religion for some time to come.

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