All the King's Men

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All the King's Men is a novel by Robert Penn Warren first published in 1946. Its title is drawn from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. In 1947 Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for All the King's Men.

It was adapted for film in 1949 and 2006; the 1949 version won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

It is rated the 36th greatest novel of the 20th century by Modern Library

Contents

The novel

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."[1]

The novel evolved from a verse play that Warren began writing in 1936 entitled Proud Flesh. One of the characters in Proud Flesh was named Willie Talos, in reference to the brutal character Talus in Edmund Spenser's late 16th century work The Faerie Queene.[2]

The version of All The King's Men edited by Noel Polk (ISBN 01-5100-610-5) uses the name "Willie Talos" for the Boss as originally written in Warren's manuscript, and is known as the "restored version" for using this name as well as printing several passages removed from the original edit.

Warren claimed that All The King's Men was "never intended to be a book about politics."[3]

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