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The Importance Of Responcibility: "All The King's Men" By Robert Penn Warren

1589 words - 6 pages

In his novel, "All the King's Men", Robert Penn Warren tells us that we are all responsible for our actions, and that sooner or later, the consequences will resurface, forcing us to face them. Refusing to accept this fact may bring pain and suffering to those around us, even the ones that we love. Warren goes on to show us that accepting this responsibility provides for personal growth, and helps us evolve into moral human beings.Jack Burden, one of the main characters in the novel, lives his life without any responsibility, under the theory that life is random and that we do not control the circumstances that we are in. He is content with believing that since he is merely following somebody else's (Willie's) orders, he is relieved of any responsibility for his actions and their outcome. Reflecting on the randomness of life, Jack decides that "All life is but the dark heave of the blood and the twitch of the nerve... Nothing was your fault, or anybody else's fault" (329). Jack is hiding behind the idea that he cannot change the world, and therefore is not responsible for anything he does. Since everything he does is not decided by his conscience, but by his Boss, he is able to live up to his neck in a swamp of corruption, yet remain dry the entire time. However, the fact of the matter is that Jack does not have the will to make his own conscientious choice. He lets his morals be used as a puppet - the strings bulled by The Boss - and uses his theory of "The Great Twitch" as a shield against his lack of will, and the blame that he should be receiving for his actions.Jack's reluctance to accept responsibility leads him to hurt his close friends and loved ones. At one point, the Boss offers him an assignment; dig up as much dirt on Judge Irwin as possible. Despite the fact that this is a man whom Jack has loved his entire life, and who has loved Jack the same way, Jack readily accepts the assignment, completely ignoring his conscience. Jack reasons, "It was a proper job for me, for ... I was once a student of history. A student of history does not care what he digs out... So it was a proper assignment for me, an excursion into the past"(189). Jack's explanation is nothing more than rationalization for a task that he knows, deep inside, is a cruel one. Despite the fact that Judge Irwin is like a father to him, and that he has loved him his entire life, Jack proceeds with his assignment like it is a standard research project. Unfortunately for him, this time the consequences catch up to him. Simply by unearthing Judge Irwin's one act of corruption, Jack unleashes a fury of consequences. These involve the death of both Willie Stark, his boss, and Adam Stanton, his friend since childhood, as well as the suicide of Judge Irwin himself. At first, Jack shrugs off the weight of theses events in the same manner he that he always does; on the grounds that this was not his conscientious choice, but simply an assignment given to him by his Boss. However, his...

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