Fictional Attorney of the Month: Willie Stark

All the King's Men is an extraordinary novel. Robert Penn Warren is one of the very best writers of the twentieth century, and his prose in this work earned him the 1947 Pulitzer. He wrote this great Southern novel about Willie Stark, a politician inspired by the life of Louisiana's Huey Long. Stark is a gifted speaker whose righteous indignation and populist outrage inspires broad political support among the people of Louisiana. He climbs from a lowly local office to the governor's mansion. (The novel has twice been adapted to film--the actor portraying Stark in the 1949 version was Broderick Crawford.)

The story is narrated by Jack Burden, a law school drop-out turned journalist who becomes a part of Stark's machine. There are a number of legal themes throughout the work, ranging from a corrupt judge to commentary on the bar exam. And the implications of lawlessness are thought-provoking for anyone with an inclination to law.

There are too many good things to discuss in this book for a small Fictional Attorney of the Month post. But allow me to share one of my favorite quotations in the book, Stark's description of what law is and its perceived underinclusiveness:

"No," the Boss corrected, "I'm not a lawyer. I know some law. In fact, I know a lot of law. And I made me some money out of law. But I'm not a lawyer. That's why I can see what the law is like. It's like a single-bed blanket on a double bed and three folks in the bed and a cold night. There ain't ever enough blanket to cover the case, no matter how much pulling and hauling, and somebody is always going to nigh catch pneumonia. Hell, the law is like pants you bought last year for a growing boy, but it is always this year and the seams are popped and the shankbone's to the breeze. The law is always too short and too tight for growing humankind. The best you can do is do something and then make up some law to fit and by the time that law gets on the books you would have done something different."