Significance of a Quotation from All The King’s Men

The quotation that stood out to me with the most significant meaning was a quote from a conversion between Willie Stark and Adam Stanton. Willie says to Adam, “What the hell else you think folks have been doing for a million years, Doc? When your great-great-grandpappy climbed down out of the tree, he didn’t have any more notion of good or bad, or right or wrong, than the hoot owl that stayed up there in the tree. Well, he climbed down and he began to make Good up as he went along. He made up what he needed to do business, Doc. And what he made up and got everybody to migrate on as good and right was always just a couple of jumps behind what he needed to do business on. That’s why things change, Doc. Because what folks claim is right is always just a couple of jumps short of what they need to do business. Now as an individual, one fellow, he will stop doing business because he’s got a notion of what is right, and he will be a hero. But folks in general, which is society, Doc, is never going to stop doing business. Society is just going to cook up a new notion of what is right. Society is sure not ever going to commit suicide. At least, not that way and of a purpose. And that is a fact. Now ain’t it?” (ch 6, page 277)

To me, this quote sums up life in politics in one perfect package. Throughout the reading of “All The King’s Men”, over and over I have experienced the corruptness of others especially through politics and the extremities they will go through to save themselves no what what the fallout might be for others. Somewhere along the way, the rules for good and bad, and right and wrong were set into place by someone to benefit themselves in a situation. I get the feeling from this quote that Willie is referring to the conscious of people’s minds in that they will migrate in whichever direction that will get them to the place they want to be.

Willie does mention that there will be at least one person who will stand up for what he thinks is right and be the hero of the scenario, but for most of society, they will never put themselves in a position that would cause a personal or professional suicide, and if it comes to that point, they will change the rules to suit their needs. I believe that in that moment, Willie Stark was referring to himself when he did not support the school project by the company that was not only more expensive, but it had to do with politics and the school’s fire exit collapsed and ended up killing three students. That statement might have just been the most truthful words Willie Stark had ever said aloud.

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