The novel deals with the large question of the responsibility individuals bear for their actions within the turmoil of history, and it is perhaps appropriate that the impetus of the novel's story comes partly from real historical occurrences.
Jack Burden is entirely a creation of Robert Penn Warren, but there are a number of important parallels between Willie Stark and Huey Long, who served Louisiana as both Governor and Senator from 1928 until his death in 1935.
Like Huey Long, Willie Stark is an uneducated farm boy who passed the state bar exam; like Huey Long, he rises to political power in his state by instituting liberal reform designed to help the state's poor farmers. And like Huey Long, Willie is assassinated at the peak of his power by a doctor Dr. Adam Stanton in Willie's case, Dr. Carl A. Weiss in Long's. (Unlike Willie, however, Long was assassinated after becoming a Senator, and was in fact in the middle of challenging Franklin D. Roosevelt for the Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party.)
Jack Burden -- Willie Stark's political right-hand man, the narrator of the novel and in many ways its protagonist. Jack comes from a prominent family (the town he grew up in, Burden's Landing, was named for his ancestors), and knows many of the most important people in the state.
Despite his aristocratic background, Jack allies himself with the liberal, amoral Governor Stark, to the displeasure of his family and friends. He uses his considerable skills as a researcher to uncover the secrets of Willie's political enemies. Jack was once married to Lois Seager, but has left her by the time of the novel. Jack's main characteristics are his intelligence and his curious lack of ambition; he seems to have no agency of his own, and for the most part he is content to take his direction from Willie. Jack is also continually troubled by the question of motive and responsibility in history: he quit working on his PhD thesis in history when he decided he could not comprehend Cass Mastern's motives. He develops the Great Twitch theory to convince himself that no one can be held responsible for anything that happens. During the course of the novel, however, Jack rejects the Great Twitch theory and accepts the idea of responsibility.
Willie Stark -- Jack Burden's boss, who rises from poverty to become the governor of his state and its most powerful political figure. Willie takes control of the state through a combination of political reform (he institutes sweeping liberal measures designed to tax the rich and ease the burden on the state's many poor farmers) and underhanded guile (he blackmails and bullies his enemies into submission). While Jack is intelligent and inactive, Willie is essentially all motive power and direction. The extent of his moral philosophy is his belief that everyone and everything is bad, and that moral action involves making goodness out of the badness.
Willie is married to Lucy Stark, with whom he has a son, Tom. But his voracious sexual appetite leads him into a number of afiairs, including one with Sadie Burke and one with Anne Stanton. Willie is murdered by Adam Stanton toward the end of the novel.
Anne Stanton -- Jack Burden's first love, Adam Stanton's sister, and, for a time, Willie Stark's mistress. The daughter of Governor Stanton, Anne is raised to believe in a strict moral code, a belief which is threatened and nearly shattered when Jack shows her proof of her father's wrongdoing.
Adam Stanton -- A brilliant surgeon and Jack Burden's closest childhood friend. Anne Stanton's brother. Jack persuades Adam to put aside his moral reservations about Willie and become director of the new hospital Willie is building, and Adam later cares for Tom Stark after his injury. But two revelations combine to shatter Adam's worldview: he learns that his father illegally protected Judge Irwin after he took a bribe, and he learns that his sister has become Willie Stark's lover. Driven mad with the knowledge, Adam assassinates Willie in the lobby of the Capitol towards the end of the novel.
Judge Montague Irwin -- A prominent citizen of Burden's Landing and a former state Attorney General; also a friend to the Scholarly Attorney and a father figure to Jack. When Judge Irwin supports one of Willie's political enemies in a Senate election, Willie orders Jack to dig up some information on the judge. Jack discovers that his old friend accepted a bribe from the American Electric Power Company in 1913 to save his plantation. (In return for the money, the judge dismissed a case against the Southern Belle Fuel Company, a sister corporation to American Electric.) When he confronts the judge with this information, the judge commits suicide; when Jack learns of the suicide from his mother, he also learns that Judge Irwin was his real father.
Реферат опубликован: 31/07/2007