Эссе: The Role of Self in All The King's Men Essay

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... Robert Penn Warren uses the theme of self continuously in his works to display the discovery of one's identity. A poem he wrote entitled "Why Boy Came to Lonely Place" presents the theme of self that he so keenly uses in his novels. "Did I clamber these miles of distance / Only to quiver now in identity? / You are yourself only by luck, disaster, or chance, / And only alone may believe in your reality." This poem directly links to the occurrences in All the King's Men. Jack Burden has no sense of identity and is one of the main characters' who succeeds in the creation of self. Willie Stark also fits the description in the poem. Early in his life he had put in many hours of studying every night to get ahead in his future career in law. He was unaware though, that his hard work would be deemed ineffective, as he had not yet discovered his selfhood and, therefore, "quivered in his own identity." The notion of significant unity, according to Warren, entails two elements: "continuity-the self as a development in time, with a past and a future; and responsibility-the self as a moral identity, recognizing itself as capable of action worthy of praise or blame" (Ealy 202). Many characters in life contain only one of these selves, which make them somewhat able to penetrate the barrier of success, as does many in Warren's novel. Jack Burden though, eventually is able to develop both, and discovers his self-identity in its entirety.


Jack does little to search for his self-identity. Instead, he finds it on his path through life. He initially evades any means of finding selfhood through his various theories, "but he ultimately finds himself in the existential paradox of having chosen to act merely by having chosen not to" (Cullick 197). Many factors play into his undesired discovery. It seems to be Warren's belief that everyone must search for his own identity; it is not an easy task but must be sought for thoroughly. One of the first events in Jacks life that affects his selfhood is the divorce of his parents. His lack of understanding toward it creates a setback in his discovery. This divorce brings anger to Jack and he thinks of his mother as a woman who is incapable of love. Jack's relationship with Anne also plays a prominent role in his identity as well as his "perfectly adjusted" relationship with Lois during his columnist career. Jack's disability to understand Cass and abandon his studies shows another setback in his search. Willie also plays an interconnecting role in the discovery of self for Jack, just as Jack had played a role in the discovery of self for Willie when he was quivering in his own identity. Because Jack lacks self, he makes thoughtless decisions. These decisions ultimately lead to the death of his father, Willie Stark, and Adam Stanton. ...