Religion: A Rectifying Route
Robert Penn Warren, in his novel All The King’s Men, examines the modern man’s quest to live a simple existence—a life, void of sin, in which man endeavors to discover truth. Jack Burden, the novel’s protagonist and narrator, is thrust onto the political scene when his managing editor instructs him to travel up to Mason City to “see who the hell that fellow Stark is who thinks he is Jesus Christ” (51). The comparison between Willie Stark, the governor of Louisiana, and Jesus Christ emerges as an important association because, even though Jack knows of Willie’s corruption and sin, he reveres Willie as a father figure; Jack’s search for the truth, the identity of his father, is one of the main crises in the novel. While Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men is certainly a political commentary, religion plays an interesting role in the novel: Warren employs biblical and religious references to emphasize the convictions of certain characters and to explore the value of truth.
Robert Penn Warren utilizes religion to reveal the complexities of Willie’s personality and character. When Sadie Burke, Willie Stark’s secretary and clandestine lover, accidentally reveals to Willie that he was framed by Harrison to split the votes in the gubernatorial race, she compares him to the “little white lamb of god,” the “sacrificial goat,” and the “ram in the bushes” (81). In all of these biblical references, some type of sacrifice is mentioned; Willie, thus, is being used by more experienced politicians to boost themselves into office. Willie, however, conquers his naivety, learns from his mistakes, and slowly becomes a masterful politician. Remarkably manipulative and adept as governor, Willie Stark is unquestionably a political figure capable of almost anything. When Jack Burden argues that perhaps no dirt can be found on Judge Irwin, Willie retorts that, “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption . . . There is always something” (49)....
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