All the Kings Men
All the King’s Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s. The novel is narrated by Jack Burden, a political reporter who comes to work as Governor Stark’s right-hand man. The trajectory of Stark’s career is interwoven with Jack Burden’s life story and philosophical reflections: “the story of Willie Stark and the story of Jack Burden are, in one sense, one story.”
The central character of Willie Stark (often simply referred to as “the Boss”) undergoes a radical transformation from an idealistic lawyer and weak gubernatorial candidate into a charismatic and extraordinarily powerful governor. In achieving this office Stark comes to embrace various forms of corruption and builds an enormous political machine based on patronage and intimidation. His approach to politics earns him many enemies in the state legislature, but does not detract from his popular appeal among many of his constituents, who respond with enthusiasm to his fiery populist manner.