Free Essays - The Web of Life in All the King's Men

Free Essays - The Web of Life in All the King's Men

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The Spider Web of Life

 Throughout the novel, All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, the characters are constantly feeling the effects of their action later in the book.  Every one of their sinister, sketchy actions were dealt with again later in the book and not in pleasant circumstance.  As Cass Mastern had figured out:

…the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide.(188-89)
This quote is a major theme that is encountered throughout the book.

 Jack and the Judge, here is where we mainly see the web at work.  Jack, at the request of Willie, went to dig up dirt on the Judge.  Jack finds so many things out and as he exposes it everything goes wrong, the spider got him.  When Jack reveals his findings to Judge Irwin, his father, he ends up killing himself before Jack has a chance to talk to him father to son.  Although, for the most part, Jack's goal as stated at the beginning of the book was that he was to pursue truth and knowledge, he needed to leave this alone because it was a pursuit of knowledge, but it had no positive motive behind it, and, as we have encountered in previous books throughout the year and throughout this one, truth is not always a good and noble thing.  In this case the truth led to what destroyed the Judge and Jack was pursuing the truth.

 The Cass Mastern story provides an interesting parallel to the ongoing saga of Jack Burden and Willie Stark.  Cass is tormented, as Jack is, by the truth and this drives them both to the brink only Cass falls over and can not recover.  Cass hit the spider web when he committed adultery with his good friends wife and after this the venom never seemed to stop flowing.  He could not stop tormenting himself because the ripple in the web he caused had been so huge that it swallowed up his friend and destroyed him.  Cass could not correct what had been done and that destroyed him.  Jack, even though his ripple had also destroyed another, had the opportunity to redeem himself because, even though his action was bad, it truly was in the pursuit of the truth, which, by definition is good.

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 Willie is also one in the story who brushes constantly with the web.  His experiences are much different than those of Jack and Cass.  Only at the end, after the culmination of every one, do his actions come back and bite him in the rear.  Willie, up until his death had gotten away with this philosophy, "Goodness…You got to make it Doc…And you got to make it out of badness…Because there isn't anything else to make it out of."(257) With this motto essentially everything he does is justified as long as some kind of end product is good.  Eventually Willie's theory had to come crashing don and be replaced with the spider web of life in which Willie must pay some kind of huge price for all of his actions, his death.

 The Spider web is the true meaning of life for the character's lives in this book.  None escape without paying for hitting the spider web with any kind of sin.
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