Study Guide

All the King's Men Education

By Robert Penn Warren

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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. Through the narrator, Jack Burden, and political hero, Willie, All the King's Men shows two very different ways of becoming educated. One man has the benefits of the best education money can buy; the other the benefits of self-education. The novel also deals in another kind of education – an education in history. The more one knows about history, the novel seems to say, the more one can understand and empathize with his or her fellow humans. Provided, of course, that the history is accurate.

Questions About Education

  1. How would you describe Jack's education? Willie's? Anne's? Sadie's? Who do you think is the most educated character? Why?
  2. Does All the King's Men attempt to educate us about something? If so what? Intentions aside, have you learned anything from this novel?
  3. How is does the faulty school fire escape work symbolically with regard to education? Have you heard of anything like this happening before? What? When? (You might want to do some outside research for this question.)
  4. Do you think we could use the same technique as Jack to find things out about people?
  5. Does Jack have to be brave when he uses his technique? Is that something he learned? Or a natural part of his personality.

Chew on This

Lucy Stark is the character most closely associated with schools and education.

Educationally speaking, Jack and Willie are foils.

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