All The King's Men Rhetorical Analysis

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Politics: a constant debate between right or wrong and moral or immoral. Because of these conflicting arguments, some politicians resort to extreme measures to further themselves against their opponent. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren deals with the strict division between the logical fairness of using truth to further oneself politically and the immorality of using facts as blackmail. In some instances, one may view blackmail may as logical and fair, since it is primarily based on truth. In All the King’s Men, Willie Talos, the main character, whom also acts as a well-known politician, results to extortion to further himself in the race against MacMurphee and to maintain his reputation. In one instance, Willie blackmails Judge…show more content…
In reaction to being blackmailed, Judge Irwin opposes the blackmail through the technique of ethos, an argument based on morals (Heinrichs 40). Specifically, after Jack arrives at Irwin’s house with incriminating evidence, Irwin explains, “. . .politics is always a matter of choices” (Warren 479), and later states, “To blackmail me” (Warren 483). The ironic paradox that there are choices in politics, yet at the same time Irwin does not have a choice when blackmailed, shows the unfairness of extortion, and demonstrates the fallacy, argumentum ad baculum: a threat that does not offer the audience options (Heinrichs 178). Furthermore, Jack attempts to downplay the unethicality of extortion by redefining blackmail as pressure because it “is a prettier word” (Warren 483). By rejecting the opponent’s definition, Jack avoids validating Irwin’s argument (Heinrichs 117). Due to its immorality, Willie’s decision to blackmail Irwin resulted in the corruption of justice, symbolized through Irwin, and ultimately lead to his suicide. Thus, Irwin’s death showed that the unfairness of blackmail overpowered Willie’s logic behind extortion, but in reality, both sides lost since Willie’s threat failed and Irwin’s newfound information led to his demise. Throughout the entire book of All the King's Men, Warren describes blackmailing through two views: the blackmailers themselves who support threats as logic and those being blackmailed who view threats as unethical. By using extortion, Warren displays the secret, corrupted side of politics that some politicians result in to further themselves in a political field of constant
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