It’s not love. It’s blood greed.
Despite Robert Penn Warren’s—how shall I put it?—verbose style of writing, I’m really enjoying All The King’s Men.
The novel focuses on the dirtiness of politics, but it really has a little bit of everything—and so much insight into the human mind, as might be expected from a novelist who is also a famous poet.
Last week, I shared a great piece of dialogue about political speeches between “The Boss” and his right-hand man, Jack Burden, who is the narrator of the novel.
Today, let’s take a look at a passage about a totally different topic. This one, which comes from Jack Burden’s perspective, reflects on the nature of parents and their relationships with adult children.
“The child comes home and the parent puts the hooks in him. The old man, or the woman, as the case may be, hasn’t got anything to say to the child. All he wants is to have that child sit in a chair for a couple of hours and then go off to bed under the same roof. It’s not love. I am not saying that there is not such a thing as love. I am merely pointing to something which is different from love but which sometimes goes by the name of love. It may well be that without this thing which I am talking about there would not be any love. But this thing in itself is not love. It is just something in the blood. It is a kind of blood greed, and it is the fate of a man. It is the thing which man has which distinguishes him from the happy brute creation. When you got born your father and mother lost something out of themselves, and they are going to bust a hame trying to get it back, and you are it. They know they can’t get it all back but they will get as big a chunk out of you as they can.”
How ‘bout that?
This issue of broken, manipulative relationships is a recurring theme throughout All The King’s Men. Whether it’s political candidate and voter, parent and child, employer and employee, husband and wife, husband and mistress, and boyfriend and girlfriend—that thread carries throughout.
Jack Burden is an outstanding narrator. Perfect for this part of the novel. Reminds me a little of Nick Carraway from Gatsby (there’s my daily Gatsby mention if you were keeping score at home).
I’m a big fan of All The King’s Men to this point in the novel. More to come on this one next week.