All The King's Men

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Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Politics, Influence, and Power Theme Icon
Personal History, Memory, and Time Theme Icon
The South and Southern Culture Theme Icon
Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in All The King's Men, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal Theme Icon

The novel returns, again and again, to a theme which in some sense contains all of the above—that of loyalty, betrayal, and the possibility of both within a friendship. The novel is a study of Jack’s relationship with Willie—two strong-headed, impulsive men, from very different social backgrounds, who have come together with common cause in a professional setting. But Willie and Jack are also friends—even if their friendship is framed in the relationship of a boss to his employee—and when Willie dies, Jack recognizes the extent to which a meaningful chapter of his life has ended. Jack’s other great male friendship in the novel is with Adam, whom he considers to be a great man, too; a man who, like Willie and unlike Jack, has made a success of himself in life. It is particularly crushing, then, for Jack that Adam should murder Willie—that one of his friends should murder another, and that Jack should somehow feel responsible, through a series of political maneuvers, for both friends’ deaths.

Numerous other characters in the novel experiences crises of loyalty and disloyalty—in fact, nearly every major character does. Lucy knows that her husband, Willie, has been greatly disloyal to her, yet she remains loyal to him and to their son, and, later, to her son’s possible child, whom she names Willie. Sadie, loyal to Willie for a great deal of the novel, finally snaps when she finds out that Willie has been personally and romantically disloyal to her—she then aids in his death. Duffy, who was not loyal to Willie but who benefited from their political relationship, was all-too-ready to turn on his boss when the time came. Anne, in small ways, was disloyal to Jack as he was disloyal to her—in fact, their romance was characterized by a back-and-forth of intimacy and then withdrawal, with Anne later falling in love with Willie, and Jack never really forgiving her for this, although, by the end of the novel, they find themselves together again, in a sort of truce, in Burden’s Landing. And Irwin, always loyal to Jack, was himself not so loyal to his own friend, who he cuckolded (sleeping with Jack’s mother, as Irwin is Jack’s biological father), and two-timing another man out of a job Irwin wanted. But Irwin recognized his flaws and vowed to support Jack anyway, though it pained Irwin to see that Jack had thrown in his political sympathies with Willie.

In the end of the novel, Jack seems to realize that all the personal loyalties and disloyalties that have filled his memoir are inseparable from the people who have committed them; in addition, these people can never be fully loyal or disloyal, but can, rather, only be loyal relative to those around them—relative enough as the situation calls for it—and loyal to an ideal that, with luck, will bring good to others, rather than only good to themselves. Thus Jack does not resign all hope, in politics and life, at the end of the novel, but he has come through his experiences with a healthy distrust for any clean and uncomplicated narrative of human and of political relationships.

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Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal appears in each chapter of All The King's Men. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal Quotes in All The King's Men

Below you will find the important quotes in All The King's Men related to the theme of Loyalty, Friendship, and Betrayal.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The beauty about Tiny is that nobody can trust him and you know it. You get somebody somebody can trust maybe, and you got to sit up nights worrying whether you are the somebody. You get Tiny, and you can get a night’s sleep. All you got to do is keep the albumen scared out of his urine.

Related Characters: Willie “The Boss” Stark (speaker), Jack Burden, Tiny Duffy
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Willie Stark's philosophy of politics is at once simple and infinitely complex. On the one hand, he believes that, to manipulate people, you must flatter them, cajole them, be kind to them, give them things, tell them what they want to hear. But you must also strike the fear of God into them - you must cause them to believe that you are the powerful one, and that all they can do is listen.

With Duffy, Stark first approached cautiously. Then he realized Duffy (Tiny) was not a trustworthy man, nor a loyal man - that he would do whatever it took to remain viable in a political system prone to change, and to make more money for himself. When Stark noticed this, as in the quote, he was relieved - he saw that Tiny could be handled through a combination of kindness and the instilling of fear. This political philosophy Stark will put into practice throughout the novel, often to startlingly positive (or persuasive) effect. 


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Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.

Related Characters: Willie “The Boss” Stark (speaker), Jack Burden, Judge Irwin
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

Willie has come down to Burden's Landing on a political mission - and in order to achieve what he desires, he must put pressure on Judge Irwin. Jack believes that Irwin cannot be pressured - Jack has known Irwin all his life, and he flinches at the thought of trading in on that relationship in order to push a political agenda.

But Willie has no such worry about the trip. Indeed, he relies on Jack's deep and sustained relationships with the political "old guard" of Louisiana. Without them, Willie would be just another upstart, a man trying, as best he can, to make his way in Southern politics without a name for himself. When Willie argues that dirt can be "dug up" on anyone, he means that all mean are fallible, that all have made mistakes in the past - and that these mistakes can, and should, be used for political leverage. This kind of politics is relatively new to Jack, even though he knows it's the way that Willie often plays the game. 

Chapter 2 Quotes

I don’t know whether Willie meant to do it. But anyway, he did it. He didn’t exactly shove Duffy off the platform. He just started Duffy doing a dance along the edge, a kind of delicate, feather-toed, bemused, slow-motion adagio accompanied by arms pinwheeling around a face which was like a surprised custard pie with a hole scooped in the middle of the meringue . . . .

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Willie “The Boss” Stark, Tiny Duffy
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:

What is more important than Willie's "shove" of Duffy from the platform stage is the political gumption that underlies it. Willie has realized that he is a "stooge" candidate for governor at this point in his career. He has been nominated by the Democratic machine in order to split the vote with another candidate - such that the will of the party bosses prevails. When Stark realizes this is the case, he becomes enraged, and, with great shrewdness, realizes there are only two things he can do. On the one hand, he could back down and meekly do what the party says. On the other, he could lash out, show that the party is trying to subvert the democratic process - and hope that the voters will respond positively to this kind of populist message. It is a rulebook that Willie will play by for his entire political career, and it will make him, for a time, into the most powerful man in the state. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

The sky was darker now, with a purplish, greenish cast. The color of a turning grape. But it still looked high, with worlds of air under it. A gull crossed, very high, directly above me. Against the sky it was whiter even than the sail had been. It passed clear across all the sky I could see. I wondered if Anne had seen the gull.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker)
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Burden's relationship to Burden's Landing is one of pure nostalgia. He associates that place with a freer, simpler time in his life - with a world where political influence and powerful families were one (even when that influence wasn't used for the good of the many). And, of course, he thinks of Anne when he thinks of his hometown - the "girl who got away," the woman with whom he thought he was going to spend his life.

Jack's connection to the southern, marine part of Louisiana is in contrast to Willie's connection to the northern, Arkansas-like portion of the state, which is far more rural, and less defined by families of long standing and great wealth. If Burden's Landing represents homecoming and power for Jack - power that he sometimes courts and sometimes dismisses - it represents for Willie a concentration of power that is to be fought with and superseded if he is to maintain his influence. 

If the government of this state for quite a long time back had been doing anything for the folks in it, would Stark have been able to get out there with his bare hands and bust the boys? And would he be having to make so many short cuts to get something done to make up for the time lost all these years . . . ?

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Willie “The Boss” Stark, Judge Irwin, Jack’s Mother, Mr. and Mrs. Patton
Page Number: 187
Explanation and Analysis:

Jack Burden defends Willie's actions as Governor to the Irwins and the Pattons, families that represent some of the oldest and most powerful interests in the state - the bulwarks of Burden's Landing and of southern Louisiana more broadly. Jack is caught between two worlds. On the one hand, he hints that he recognizes the crudeness of Willie's methods, his populism, and his attempts to woo voters by catering to their emotions rather than to their rational minds. But Jack also sees that Willie is invested in real change, and that he wants to make the state better. Those in power, like the Irwins and Pattons, who have been in power for a long time, do not necessarily want to change the status quo to help those less fortunate. Indeed, for them the status quo is what makes them powerful in the first place. And even as Jack dines with and socializes with these families, he sees how limited their worldview is. 

There’s nothing in the constitution says that Byram B. White can commit a felony with impunity.

Related Characters: Hugh Miller (speaker), Willie “The Boss” Stark, Byram White
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:

Hugh Miller, the state attorney general of Louisiana, objects to Willie's massaging of a tricky situation involving White, who, in an official capacity, has been caught skimming money. Willie knows that there is nothing more important than having something to "hold over" another person - that is, a criminal or unethical act that can be used to blackmail someone and force them to follow Willie's orders.

In other words, Willie is excited when he catches White committing fraud, since this means he will now have leverage with White - White will be in his pocket instead of in someone else's. This is how Willie operates. And Hugh Miller, who vows he has sworn to uphold the law, will not stand for it. But Jack, interestingly, simply watches. He neither condones nor decries Willie's behavior - he merely takes it all in, and reports it to the reader. 

Chapter 4 Quotes

Jack Burden came into possession of the papers from the grandson of Gilbert Mastern. When the time came for him to select a subject for his dissertation for his Ph.D., his professor suggested that he edit the journal and letters of Cass Mastern, and write a biographical essay . . . .

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Cass Mastern
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

Before Jack was a reporter and a political operative for Willie Stark, he was a graduate student. His willingness to dig down into the muck of historical records and official documents is one of his great strengths as a political employee later in life - and this is why, or at least part of why, Jack brings up Cass Mastern. 

But Jack also seems to find something simply compelling about Cass as a human being. Through the veil of the past, Jack believes he shares some of Cass's star-crossed luck. Jack's ability to identify with those from the past - indeed, his desire to live in the past - is one of his notable characteristics, and is a clear contrast to Willie, for whom there is only forward motion, more planning, and future great accomplishment. Jack's involvement with the past is in no sense more pronounced, indeed, than when he speaks to Anne, with whom he is still in love, even though they are now friends. 

But now and then Duncan Trice had to be out of town on business, and on those occasions Cass would be admitted, late at night, to the house . . . so he actually lay in the very bed belonging to Duncan Trice.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Cass Mastern, Duncan Trice
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

Duncan Trice took Cass "under his wing," and showed him how to behave as a Southern gentleman should. Jack discovers this in the letters, and sees, too, that Cass falls in love with Duncan's wife, Annabelle. 

Here the patterning of the novel turns inward, as Jack realizes, although does not state explicitly, that Cass, the subject of his doctoral dissertation, falls in love with an "Anna" just as Jack falls in love with Anne. And it later is revealed that Anne has been having an affair with Willie Stark, meaning that Jack, like Cass, is the "other man."

Thus Penn Warren creates what is called a "mise en abyme," or a pattern of repeated narratives within the text. Jack looks into the past and finds, despite himself, his own predicament - although at the time of his research, he does not know that he will be working for Willie, nor that Anne will wind up having a romantic affair with him. 

. . . the day came when Jack Burden sat down at the pine table and realized that he did not know Cass Mastern. He did not have to know Cass Mastern to get the degree; he only had to know the facts about Cass Mastern’s world. But without knowing Cass Mastern, he could not put down the facts about Cass Mastern’s world.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Cass Mastern
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

As in his descriptions of Burden's Landing, Jack is a romantic - for good and for ill. His sensibility allows him to fall quickly and deeply in love with ideas, with stories, with people. He takes a great deal of enjoyment in his graduate work, and throughout this chapter, he demonstrates to the reader just how skilled he is as a researcher, how willing he was to devote a chunk of his life to reaching back into the archives and describing the past.

But, as this passage indicates, he was not simply interested in describing the past - he wanted to find out the "truth" of Cass Mastern's story. And because he could not discover that truth - though he did not exactly know what the truth might mean - he abandoned the project, never getting his doctorate. This is the flip side of Jack's romanticism - it causes him to take up projects passionately, but it causes him to abandon them just as absolutely when he no longer cares for them or gives them up as impossible. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

Then it was another day, and I set out to dig up the dead cat, to excavate the maggot from the cheese, to locate the canker in the rose, to find the deceased fly among the raisins in the rice pudding.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Judge Irwin
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

The novel has now looped back to its initial story - that of the meeting between Willie, Jack, and Judge Irwin, in the middle of the night in Burden's Landing. Willie needs Irwin to work with him, and Irwin is not inclined to do so; thus Willie asks Jack to find "dirt" on Irwin, as Jack describes in this passage, using an array of metaphors. This is, in part, Jack's theatrical and descriptive flourish - he was a doctoral student, after all, and has a literary turn of mind.

But it also shows the bind that Jack is in. On the one hand, he wants to help his boss - but on the other, he realizes he must subvert one of the deepest friendships he has, with a man who mentored him in his youth. Jack is being asked to choose, effectively, between his past and his present (and future) - and he sides with Willie. 

For the physical world, though it exists and its existence cannot be denied without blasphemy, is never the cause, it is only result, only symptom, it is the clay under the thumb of the potter . . . .

Related Characters: “The Scholarly Attorney” (speaker)
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

Jack's father (or step-father), the "Scholarly Attorney," is now something of a religious mystic, a man who lives in a small, dirty apartment, who takes men in off the street in acts of charity, and who appears not to have much by way of steady employment. In a sense, Jack is torn between the world of the Scholarly Attorney and that of the high social polish of Burden's Landing, where the Scholarly Attorney's behavior is considered scandalous.

Jack's life as a graduate student approached that of his father's in Jack's renunciation of the comforts he might have been able to enjoy in the Landing. But Jack also looks at his father skeptically, now, as a man who has given up on life, and who has decided to reject everything he once knew, for an existence that is both radically generous and more or less removed from the lives of "normal" working people. 

I can do no more. I went as you know to the people who are against Governor Stanton in politics but they would not listen to me. . . . I will never be any good again. I will be a drag on you and not a help. What can I do, Sister?

Related Characters: Mortimer Littlepaugh (speaker), Lily Littlepaugh
Page Number: 341
Explanation and Analysis:

Mortimer Littlepaugh was the "chief counsel" for American Electric, a company that, in a complex deal, winds up involved in Irwin's graft decades before. Jack digs up the fact that Littlepaugh went to the governor of the state of Louisiana to argue that Judge Irwin, then a high-ranking and prominent public official, had arranged a sweetheart deal for himself to make a private fortune, using his public office. 

Littlepaugh, disgusted that he could not expose the graft, and that the government would do nothing to stop Irwin's malfeasance, killed himself - and once Jack realizes this, he knows he has Irwin "nailed," that there is nothing the judge can do to stop Willie from using this information. This confirms what Willie said in the beginning of the novel, that all men commit bad deeds, and that only some men have to answer for them - unless those bad deeds are uncovered by crack researchers like Jack. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

The Friend of Your Youth is the only friend you will ever have, for he does not really see you. He sees in his mind a face which does not exist any more . . . .

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Adam Stanton
Page Number: 352
Explanation and Analysis:

Jack and Adam, as Jack recounts, were good friends long ago - as close as brothers, especially considering the fact that Jack was in love with Anne Stanton, Adam's sister. Adam is a doctor who does not make much money, who thinks highly of his professional calling, and has vowed to do good for the region - and who believes that Jack's association with Willie is a tarnish on Jack's reputation.

Here, Jack argues that his friendship with Adam, though it is always present in their conversations, has vanished - that it is only the ghost of that friendship that is now apparent. Jack realizes that this feeling also characterizes his relationship with Anne, and that their previous intimacy is now only the faint outline of that intimacy. Jack wonders whether he and Adam can ever become close enough again to speak honestly with one another - if not as they did in the past, then at least in some approximation of it. 

I told him . . . I told him that if he wanted to do any good—really do any good—here was the time. And the way. To see that the Medical Center was run right.

Related Characters: Anne Stanton (speaker), Adam Stanton
Page Number: 369
Explanation and Analysis:

Anne convinces her brother that, though he opposes working for Willie Stark, Stark is the man who stands between him and the job of his dreams: running a charity hospital that could benefit the residents of the entire state. Thus Adam, like Jack, finds himself in a bind, although Adam has a harder time working for Willie, ultimately. Both Jack and Adam are idealists who must occasionally behave as pragmatists, and Anne does her part to convince Adam that he can live with himself after having "sold out" professionally to Willie.

Anne is an interesting figure in the novel. She is beloved by many, most notably by Jack. And yet she is most vivid not in her contemporary appearances, at the time the narrative is written, but in the past, as Jack describes spending time with her at the Landing. It is as if Anne becomes most alive when she is in a memory - not when she is standing before Jack in real life. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

I had had a puncture in the morning and so didn’t hit Long Beach till about evening. I drank a milk shake, bought a bottle of bourbon, and went up to my room. I hadn’t had a drop the whole trip. I hadn’t wanted a drop. I hadn’t wanted anything, except the hum of the motor and the lull of the car and I had had that.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker)
Related Symbols: Alcohol (“Likker”)
Page Number: 407
Explanation and Analysis:

Jack describes these periods of his life - which are shocks, panic attacks, and instances of major depression all wrapped into one - as Great Sleeps. Anne's affair with Stark prompts another such Big Sleep, and the only thing that can assuage him is a trip to Los Angeles, to the water -  a trip that, at the time Jack undertakes it, would require many days.

Jack feels he must see the entire sweep of the western United States to rid himself of the idea of Anne with another man. This, although he knows that Anne no longer loves him, and that their relationship will not work - that he and Anne exist together only in the past, not in the present or the future. Yet the idea of Anne with Willie is a betrayal - but of what, Jack is not quite sure. Nevertheless, it prompts him to seek solitude in a faraway place and solace in alcohol.

Don’t be silly . . . and don’t call me Jackie-Bird.
But you are Jackie-bird . . . .
Don’t you love me?
I love Jackie-Bird; poor Jackie-Bird.
God damn it, don’t you love me?
Yes . . . I do.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Anne Stanton (speaker)
Page Number: 436
Explanation and Analysis:

The revelation of Anne's affair with Willie prompts for Jack the memories of their relationship - of the times they shared primarily in Burden's Landing. Anne and Jack are in love with one another, yet their relationship carries within it a strain, perhaps the strain of expectations, since the two of them spent so much time together from a young age.

When Jack and Anne go to college, a separation begins that will wind up running through their relationship, and causing it to crumble. But Jack can point to no single event - other than the night in which they attempt to have sex, but do not have time before Anne's parents return - that signals their demise as a couple. Instead, they have grown apart just as they had grown up together. And it is this, the fact that their love did not last, that is harshest for Jack. It is this that prompts so much anxious revulsion at the idea of Anne and Willie together. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

What would it cost? Well, MacMurfee was thinking he might run for Senator . . . so that was it.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Harrison and MacMurfee
Page Number: 499
Explanation and Analysis:

The revelation of this quote causes Willie to activate his long-held plan of using his "dirt" on Judge Irwin. MacMurfee is in Irwin's pocket, and MacMurfee now thinks that, having learned that Willie's son has gotten a girl pregnant, he (MacMurfee) can use this as leverage to gain a senate seat in Louisiana, the same seat Willie has had his eye on for years.

Willie, of course, is not going to allow MacMurfee's plan to unfold, and he therefore relies on Jack to go to Burden's Landing and talk to Irwin. It is blackmail of a third party to defeat blackmail against himself, and Willie knows that it is entirely personal - that MacMurfee wants to use a detail from Willie's son's life to derail Willie's career. Thus Willie, who believes that all political battles are personal ones, has no problem sullying Irwin's reputation to keep MacMurfee from sullying his own. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

God damn it, so the bastard crawled out on me.
I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t tell you to scare him to death, I just told you to scare him.
He wasn’t scared.
What the hell did he do it for then?

Related Characters: Willie “The Boss” Stark (speaker), Jack Burden (speaker), Judge Irwin
Page Number: 535
Explanation and Analysis:

Irwin's suicide, which mirrors Littlepaugh's suicide years before in the American Electric case, is a double blow for Jack. First, it is an indicator of what can go wrong when one person tries to utterly ruin another - that second person always has the horrible option of ending his or her life, thus stopping the power dynamic of blackmail. And, even more importantly, Irwin's act causes Jack's mother to reveal that Jack is really Irwin's son - that Jack was the child, out of a wedlock, of a romantic union between his own mother and Judge Irwin.

This latter piece of news is almost too much for Jack to bear. For not only does he learn that his own father, the Scholarly Attorney, is not his biological father - he learns that he has caused his biological father to kill himself, all for political gain for Willie Stark, not even for Jack Burden. 

Sugar-boy was leaning above him, weeping and sputtering, trying to speak. He finally managed to get out the words:
“D-d-d-does it hur-hur-hur-hurt much, Boss--?”

Related Characters: Willie “The Boss” Stark (speaker), Sugar-Boy (speaker)
Page Number: 598
Explanation and Analysis:

Willie's lieutenants, those who have supported him his entire political life, who have believed in him since he was a young and unpolished man - they gather around him now, in the hospital he has built, hoping that he does not die of the gunshot wound he has suffered in the capital (the bullet fired by Adam). Willie's operatives (particularly Sugar-Boy) are loyal to him to the end, vowing that, if he does die, he will not die in vain, and that the state will long recognize Willie's achievements.

But Jack, seeing Willie suffer, has a more complex set of emotions. For Adam has killed Willie, in part, for sleeping with Anne - thus "ruining" Anne's reputation, as Adam sees it. Jack, of course, is devastated to know about Anne's relationship with Willie, and the fact that Anne and Willie seem to be genuinely in love. Knowledge of the affair caused Jack to drive away to Los Angeles, and perhaps, too, to give up on romantic possibility altogether. This same revelation happened to drive Adam to murderous frenzy. 

He died the next morning, just about day. There was a hell of a big funeral. The city was jam-packed with people, all kinds of people . . . people who had never been on pavement before.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Willie “The Boss” Stark
Page Number: 603
Explanation and Analysis:

The people of Louisiana adore Willie. He was their champion all his life, a populist hero for the state, who made his career early on by defying large-scale political interests and the moneyed classes that ruled Louisiana. Willie dared to put the interests of the people first, and to use them to gain political power.

That, at least, is the public story. In private, however, and as the novel demonstrates, Willie was a populist as much for his own advancement as for the sake of the people's. He saw that he could do good by promising to be one of the people, not a special interest - yet he became so powerful that no one, he felt, could touch him. And Willie, by the end of his life, believed that any tactic was fair to pursue for political purposes - any kind of blackmail, any kind of illicit or behind-the-scenes leverage. It is this second part of his political life that the people on the sidewalks did not see, and Jack knows this. 

Chapter 10 Quotes

Oh . . . and I killed Willie. I killed him.
Oh God . . .

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Sadie Burke (speaker), Willie “The Boss” Stark
Page Number: 618
Explanation and Analysis:

Jack realizes that Sadie leaked the information to Adam that Willie and Anne were having an affair, because Sadie at least partially knew that Adam would be so enraged to hear it that he would do anything to stop Willie. Sadie did this because she loved Willie, after having served him loyally for years, and she couldn't bear the thought of Anne being with him. Duffy, Willie's operative, also participated in this leveraging of behind-the-scenes information, since Duffy, too, knew that he could destroy Willie this way - and Duffy had his eyes on bigger payoffs and greater office than he could achieve with Willie in power.

Thus Willie was undone by his own affair with Anne, but moreover undone by those who promised to be loyal to him. Sadie and Duffy used Willie's own tactics against him, and Sadie, at this point in the novel, is in a mental institution, having suffered a breakdown; she recognizes that she has suffered for Willie's murder, though perhaps not as much as Willie has. 

. . . and soon we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time.

Related Characters: Jack Burden (speaker), Anne Stanton
Page Number: 661
Explanation and Analysis:

For Jack, the events of the novel work on two planes. On one, they are the events of one man's political life, his rise and his fall, his idealism, his populism, and eventually a demise predicated on the kinds of hard-nosed techniques he himself used to attain and keep power. Jack sees Willie's life as a powerful example of how governing in America works, how "democracy" functions - how the power of a personality can make the power of a man.

But Jack also sees Willie's life as pointing to larger themes - the changes in Southern society that lead to new populist leaders, and that dismantle the old ways of doing things in the moneyed parts of the state. Willie is also connected to the idea that love can be wrapped up in power, and loyalty inherent in disloyalty - that perhaps there is no such thing as loyalty at all. Jack, ever the romantic and idealist, is deeply dismayed at what he has seen, and wonders what the remainder of his life will look like. Jack and Anne are now together, and as they take care of the Scholarly Attorney, they try to knit together a life that has, over time, become complex and sad, a part of the long, complex, and often sad history of that part of the United States.