All the King's Men

by: Robert Penn Warren

Chapter 10

Summary Chapter 10


After Adam's funeral and Willie's funeral, Jack spends some time in Burden's Landing, spending his days quietly with Anne. They never discuss Willie's death or Adam's death; instead they sit wordlessly together, or Jack reads aloud from a book. Then one day Jack begins to wonder how Adam learned about Anne and Willie's affair. He asks her, but she says she does not know--a man called and told him, but she does not know who it was. Jack goes to visit Sadie Burke in the sanitarium where she has gone to recover her nerves. She tells Jack that Tiny Duffy (now the governor of the state) was the man who called Adam; and she confesses that Tiny learned about the affair from her. She was so angry about Willie leaving her to go back to Lucy that she told Tiny out of revenge, knowing that, by doing so, she was all but guaranteeing Willie's death. Jack blames Tiny rather than Sadie, and Sadie agrees to make a statement which Jack can use to bring about Tiny's downfall.

A week later, Duffy summons Jack to see him. He offers Jack his job back, with a substantial raise over Jack's already substantial income. Jack refuses, and tells Tiny he knows about his role in Willie's death. Tiny is stunned, and frightened, and when Jack leaves he feels heroic. But his feeling of moral heroism quickly dissolves into an acidic bitterness, because he realizes he is trying to make Tiny the sole villain as a way of denying his own share of responsibility. Jack withdraws into numbness, not even opening a letter from Anne when he receives it. He receives a letter from Sadie with her statement, saying that she is moving away and that she hopes Jack will let matters drop--Tiny has no chance to win the next gubernatorial election anyway, and if Jack pursues the matter Anne's name will be dragged through the mud. But Jack had already decided not to pursue it.

At the library Jack sees Sugar-Boy, and asks him what he would do if he learned that there was a man besides Adam who was responsible for Willie's death. Sugar-Boy says he would kill him, and Jack nearly tells him about Tiny's role. But he decides not to at the last second, and instead tells Sugar-Boy that it was a joke. Jack also goes to see Lucy, who has adopted Sibyl Frey's child, which she believes is Tom's. She tells Jack that Tom died of pneumonia shortly after the accident, and that the baby is the only thing that enabled her to live. She also tells him that she believes--and has to believe--that Willie was a great man. Jack says that he also believes it.

Jack goes to visit his mother at Burden's Landing, where he learns that she is leaving Theodore Murrell, the Young Executive. He is surprised to learn that she is doing so because she loved Judge Irwin all along. This knowledge changes Jack's long-held impression of his mother as a woman without a heart, and helps to shatter his belief in the Great Twitch. At the train station, he lies to his mother, and tells her that Judge Irwin killed himself not because of anything that Jack did, but because of his failing health. He thinks of this lie as his last gift to her.

After his mother leaves, he goes to visit Anne, and tells her the truth about his parentage. Eventually, he and Anne are married, and in the early part of 1939, when Jack is writing his story, they are living in Judge Irwin's house in Burden's Landing. The Scholarly Attorney, now frail and dying, lives with them. Jack is working on a book about Cass Mastern, whom he believes he can finally understand. After the old man dies and the book is finished, Jack says, he and Anne will leave Burden's Landing--stepping "out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time."


In this chapter, Jack struggles through the chaos of recent events toward his final acceptance of responsibility and self-determination. In the aftermath of Willie Stark's death and his visits to Sadie, Jack's immediate reaction is to handle Willie's death the way he would have handled any other political problem encountered while working for Willie: get to the bottom of it, and then punish his enemies by blackmailing them. When he first learns from Sadie that Tiny informed Adam of Willie's affair with Anne, he visits Tiny and threatens him with the information--just as he used to threaten Willie's enemies with knowledge of their past misdeeds.