Study Guide

All the King's Men Transformation

By Robert Penn Warren

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But then, who is the hell is this in the back seat of the big black Cadillac that comes ghosting through town? (1.315)

Jack is trying to figure out how the little boy Jack he remembers from the Burden's Landing street has turned into the present Jack. Remember, what Willie will soon ask him to do will transform all of their lives forever.

[Willie Stark:] "I'm not going to read you any speech. You know what you need better'n I could tell you. But I'm going to tell you a story." (2.140)

This is just a small moment from Willie's first good speech. Transformed by the potent combination of Jack's liquor and the cold hard truth, Willie changes into the Boss, and he can never go back. This passage also shows how a good story has the power to move us.

I lay on my back with my back, with my head in her lap, the way I had known I would do. (3.11)

This represents a major transformation in the way we look at Jack. We thought he was a tough guy, but his mother instantly transforms him into a child. Mrs. Murrell is a powerful force in Jack's life.

So Jack Burden made the acquaintance of Cass Mastern, who had died in 1864 at a military hospital in Atlanta […]. (4.26)

Cass Mastern's story transforms him, even Jack is not sure how or why? That's why he's planning to write a book about Cass at the end of the novel.

The old man broke off a piece of chocolate and placed it between the expectant lips, and peered into George's face […] (5.286)

This is a moment of triple transformation. George and Ellis both became mentally ill as a result of tragedies with their love lives. Watching Ellis feed George chocolate triggers a memory of Ellis feeding Jack chocolate. This momentarily transforms Jack's bitterness toward Ellis into love.

I did not say anything. I did not need to. For, looking at me, she nodded quite steadily. (6.456)

This moment, when Jack gets confirmation that Anne and Willie have been sleeping together, is what sends Jack West. Ultimately, this trip will lead to Jack's development of the Great Twitch theory. That's some major transformation.

Therefore, if you have any home movies, I earnestly advise you to burn them and to be baptized to get born again. (7.12)

Jack is just full of advice. Look at all the transformations he mentions here. Burning home movies is a metaphorical attempt to change the past. Baptism and being "born again" represents religious transformation.

It was like the ice breaking up after a long winter. And the winter had been long. (8.502)

Jack is talking about the tears he shed upon learning that he is the sole beneficiary in the Judge's will. This is probably the only time we see Jack break down and cry. His heart has begun to thaw along with the deep freeze of his past.

I tried to tell her how if you could not accept the past and its burden there was no future, for without one there cannot be the other. (10.432)

Jack's feelings toward his mother have transformed considerably from the first time we see them together. He's trying to explain his larger transformation to her as she prepares to embark on what we hope will be transformative for her – a trip to Reno.

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