The Theme Of Innocence Vs. Awareness In All The King'S Men By Robert Penn Warren

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Innocence vs. Awareness Throughout All The King’s Men, there is a constant struggle between innocence and awareness. For a reader to fully understand the novel one must acknowledge this struggle, for it is integral to the transformations of several major characters and the development of the novel itself. In the book, there are many cases where ignorance does prove to be bliss. However, there are also quite a few instances where awareness helps to empower a character. By the end of the story “innocence vs. awareness” becomes one of the most prevalent themes. From the first chapter till the last few pages of the book, the narrator, Jack, hosts an ongoing battle of “innocence vs. awareness” within himself. Towards the beginning of the novel Jack claims to believe in the principle “ignorance is bliss” so much as to seem nihilistic: “…after I got hold of that principle I became an idealist…If you are an idealist it does not matter what you do or what goes on around you because it isn’t real anyway.” (p. 45). In spite of his strong beliefs in the beginning of the story, Jack’s views begin to change in chapter eight after he informs Judge Irwin of the “dirt” he has on him. He believes that informing Irwin will benefit the judge by giving him a chance to defend himself. Unfortunately, after Judge Irwin kills himself Jack realizes that the awareness he believed would be beneficial to the judge became the motivation for his suicide. Following this event, Jack comes to understand that neither innocence nor awareness is always blissful. This transformation becomes especially obvious to the reader in the last chapter when Jack lies to his mother, telling her that Judge Irwin did not kill himself because he was “in a jam”. He thinks of this lie as a gift to his mother, allowing her to believe that she had indeed loved a genuinely good man. In the second chapter, the

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