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The Effects Of Philosophy On Various Characters In "All The King’s Men"

1543 words - 7 pages

Everyone chooses their own personal philosophies to live by. We often forget that these choices are very influential on the day to day existence of every life around us. Idealism and pragmatism influence man more than any other two philosophies and we as humans must decide on which of the two will define us, just like the characters in Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men”. The battle between idealism and pragmatism in this novel is fought differently in each character and plays a crucial role in defining not only how their lives but also the lives of those around them will play out.
As the only genuine idealist in the entire book, Lucy Stark is constantly battling reality in order to hold herself and her world together. After Willie’s rise to power, Lucy continuously puts up with his growing drinking problems and infidelity in order to maintain her sense of normality and to create the illusion of a stable family. It is no secret to anyone that Willie is no longer doing right by Lucy, and you can see that in the way Jack talks to Sadie about the issue, “He’s not two-timing you. He’s two-timing Lucy. He may be one-timing you, or four-timing you. But it can’t be two-timing” (373). Lucy is very aware that Willie has changed, and yet she doesn’t leave until a several years later. She even helps Willie keep up the charade of a perfect family in order to preserve his healthy relationship with the voters. Following Willie’s murder, Lucy seems to immediately forget all of her past heartache and takes nearly all of the responsibility in making sure her memory of Willie lives on. In Mark Mitchell’s “Theological Reflections On Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men”, he explains Lucy’s need to believe in Willie’s purity by stating that, “Lucy Stark insists that Willie was a great man, that she must believe that is true. But greatness is only meaningful in a world of choice, where greatness is not inevitable and pettiness is not required” (319). Lucy needs to believe that Willie was a good person for her own sake. Her entire world is falling apart around her, and the only way she can cope is by blocking out all her negative feelings towards Willie and pretending that there was never anything really wrong. After everything around her seems to collapse, Lucy gives her life purpose again by telling herself that raising Tom Stark’s baby is the right thing to do. “But I knew, too. In my heart. So I wrote her a letter. I went to see her, I saw the baby. Oh, I knew even more then. As soon as I saw him and held him. I persuaded her to let me adopt him” (591-592). This baby is Lucy’s last shred of hope. Lucy needs someone to take care of because that is her niche in life, and if she loses her niche she could very well lose her mind. Lucy represents the true idealist in “All the King’s Men”. She keeps a skewed understanding of every situation she encounters by choice, and makes no effort to see reality for what it is. Lucy is completely content with the perfect...

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