Deception in All the King's Men Story Research Paper

Pages: 13 (4683 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Government

Deception, Burden and "All the Kings Men"

"All the King's Men" is a fictional account of powerful and devious Louisiana politician, Willie Stark. The novel describes, Willie has an earnest, dedicated young man that is fed up with a political system built on patronage, lies, treachery, corruption and unchecked power. Initially, Willie is involved in politics to change the system from within- to remove the corruption and the corruptible. However, as the novel progresses, Willie becomes more and more entrenched within the patriarchy that defines the Louisiana political system. As Willie becomes more mired in the morass, he suddenly realizes that his wide-eyed idealism is unwarranted and indeed even a detriment if Willie wants to make progress within the system. In short, Willie receives a lesson in "Politics 101."

As time progresses, Willie becomes one of the foremost actors within a system that feeds off of corruption, power and political espionage. Indeed, Willie becomes so skillful at mastering a dismal system that he rises to the highest office in the state, that of Louisiana Governor. It is at this point, the reader is introduced to Jack Burden- a former new paper reporter and member of one of the state's preeminent aristocracies. Jack is at first, intrigued by this enigmatic figure present before him. However, he is soon pulled into this dark world of lies, espionage, deceit and political abuse. Jack abandons his initial upbringing, values and background to join Willie and his band of thugs as they engage in ruthless actions to ensure Willie maintains his political power.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Paper on Deception in All the King's Men Story Assignment

"All the King's Men" is a gripping novel that goes to the heart of what politics is truly all about and the picture is anything but ideal. Jack, the main character, forsakes his values, upbringing and his patriarchal nature for the rough and tumble world of Deep South politics. Jack is intrigued and intoxicated by this environment and the trappings that are associated with it. But at what price? What is the cost that Jack must pay for entrance into the great "Southern Dance"? For Jack to reconcile his actions with who he is, Jack must essentially-lie-to himself. Jack considers himself an idealist -- a notion that will be played upon quite extensively throughout this analysis and this idealism is the framework that Jack relies upon to justify his participation within Willie's corrupt enterprise and the values that Jack's family attempted to instill within him. One of the main recurring themes throughout the novel is "deception." Deception can take many forms, one can be deceptive to others and to themselves-each one as damaging as the other. One can also be deceptive to themselves and to others -- the worst paradigm. The concept of deception is no different for Jack in this novel. Jack is deceitful to himself in terms of viewing himself as an idealist while at the same time doing everything in his power to fulfill demands and actions that are anything but representative of the idealist paradigm or construct. This will be the focal point of this analysis.

This analysis will review the main tenants of the literary concept of "deceit"; the various manifestations it can take within a novel and how it can impact the behavior of a character both on the physical and mental levels. During this portion of the analysis, the discussion will divulge into a more psycho-somatic focus within the body politic. Once this logical and mostly theoretical construct has been established, the more narrow examination of Jack's role within the overall plot of "All the King's Men" will be analyzed in relation to this concept of "self-deceit." Jack's ability to be untruthful to himself has drastic implications for his role within Willie's inner circle. Inevitably, Jack becomes Willie' "black-bag" operative, the original "opposition research" developer of his kind as a result of Jack's uncanny ability to compartmentalize what he does for Willie any given day and his moral and ethical upbringing. Lastly, this essay will conclude with an overall assessment of not only the theme of deception prevalent within this novel but how this novel is eerily similar to the current political reality that we as a society face. How politicians are, prima facie, champions of the "people" and will work to change the system from within; however, ultimately, they become part of the system, part of the problem they were sent to originally correct.


This section of the analysis will focus on the academic perspective associated with the concept of "Self-Deception"; specifically how this concept applies to literary characters. The various components and remunerations along with the presentations and manifestations of "Self-Deception" are presented here and various questions will be posited that will attempt to link this concept with the actions, behaviors and attitudes of Jack, as the literary text is analyzed within this construct. For now, this portion of the discussion focus on the more theoretical aspects of the paradigm; the more detailed interface between theory and plot integration will follow.

The concept of "Self-Deception" is predicated on the concept of knowledge. Knowledge has various definitions, forms and interpretation. Philosophy, Law, Science have all contributed to the growing debate over what precisely defines knowledge. Epistemological, Phenomenological and Ontological approaches have all been endeavored to adequately construct a working logical paradigm that encompasses all the relevant theories associated with knowledge and its various forms.

With the advent of knowledge comes the presence of information. Indeed you cannot have knowledge without having information. The question inevitably becomes, "What is done with this information?" Undoubtedly, information flows from the external environment. Once information is absorbed into the stream of consciousness it can be modified, transformed or even deleted (Frost 12). Modification can occur when the first lucid thought concerning the nature of the information is formulated within either the conscious or sub-conscious regions of the neural nexus between thoughts and consciousness (Frost 12). An individual's reaction to the nature or content of the information can cause the information to be deleted either as a rational or irrational reaction the presentation of the content of such information (Frost 13).

Information or in the case of Jack Burden, perceived realities of his present political situation is vital to the development of the construct that supports "Self-Deception." The maxim of "ignorance," of not being aware of the existence of specific information-is the crux, the fulcrum of a literary character establishing self-deceit (Fischer 132). Although, one could make a plausible argument that many politicians have perfected this art of creative and convenient ignorance, certainly Willie has. Once information, or the memories they trigger are considered threatening, they are either transformed or deleted-one act's like the events did not happen-this is similar to the concept of "justification" which will be addressed near the conclusion of this section.

The manipulation of thoughts, perceived realities and memory pertaining to an event, action or pattern of behavior leads to an inaccurate perception of events; therefore this perception is correct in the individual's purview; however, incorrect outside this matrix (Frost 13). The concept of self-deception has been described by philosophers as "bad-faith" (Frost 14). Jean-Paul Sartre defined, "bad-faith" as related to an individual's consciousness (Frost 15). The individual's consciousness is predicated on experience. Experience leads to meaning and this meaning defines personal realities. If a concept is presented to an individual numerous times but remains unnoticed by the individual-or at least the individual portends to claim the information remained unnoticed-then the individual is said to have never "experienced" the information therefore it cannot become ingrained within their consciousness.

This seems like the overarching logical construct that outlines the old adage "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Certainly our current political environment is full of incidences that invoke this "convenient ignorance." However, today's modern era defines this as "plausible deniability" or "I do not know how these documents came to be found where they were found" or even further "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." All of these statements have been uttered by politicians to excuse bad behavior. However, this concept of "Self-Deception" reveals a paradox. How can an individual construct two separate narratives that govern their daily existence? Is it possible for man to devise such a paradigm that allows man to function adequately in one while not forsaking the other? This introduces the concept of "forgetting."

The ability to forget, especially something relevant to the individual, is the hallmark of demonstrating "Self-Deception" (Fingarette 48). Forgetting allows an individual to maintain consistency in thought and in deed (Steffen 10). "Self-Deception" is at its core a psychological concept. "Self Deception" refers to the mental and behavioral aspects of an individual that define a level of self-relatedness (Steffen 119). The ability to "self-relate" is a pivotal aspect of an individual defining their central reality and ultimately allows the individual to act in a manner that is consistent with "self-deception" based on the earlier premise that self-deception is predicated on an individual constructing their own reality. Although the concept of "self-deception"… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Deception in All the King's Men Story.  (2010, November 24).  Retrieved July 7, 2020, from

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"Deception in All the King's Men Story."  November 24, 2010.  Accessed July 7, 2020.