All The King's Men Problem Essay

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All The King’s Men Problem Essay

In Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men, Jack Burden is a narrator who routinely assigns labels to people he encounters, periods of time he faces, and ideas he develops. The reader comes to know many characters, thoughts, and times by way of the epithet Jack has given them. Although this element of Jack’s narration becomes so regular it reads as merely one of Jack’s idiosyncrasies, a question remains to why Warren created a character who does this. The problem of this novel is: Why does Jack Burden assign these labels, and what do they do for the structure of the novel, the reader’s relation to the narrator, and the thematic development of the text? Although Warren gives no explicit solution to this
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Warren uses the narrator’s labeling to ensure the reader have a comprehension of the novel’s massive web of characters, time, and ideas, to permit the reader to look through the eyes of Jack and understand the world from his perspective, and to reveal Jack’s transition from believing all things exist individually without relation to one another to believing in universal interconnectedness. Warren uses Jack’s labeling system to first adjust the reader to his text and share Jack’s perspective with the reader, then uses the connection made to shake the reader just as Jack has been shook by his realization that everything is not as it seems. This technique of forming a bond only to uproot it is used by many authors; it helps the reader grasp the conflict with the same gravity with which the main characters grasp the conflict. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the author spends a majority of the text assimilating the reader into the protagonist, Okonkwo’s, way of life in the Nigerian village. Once the reader has become familiar with the characters and their perspective of the way things run in their village, Achebe displaces the familiarity the reader has formed by severely altering the conditions of the village; thus, the reader feels the conflict with the same weight Okonkwo feels the
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