Although the corruption of morality is evident in the characterization of Willie, it is possible to argue that this novel as a whole is morally ambiguous. This is because Willie's aims to do good are founded on a regime that is unrepentantly corrupt. Furthermore, although it is clear that Willie becomes enmeshed in political intrigue, bribery and bullying to secure his position as Governor, because of Jack's ambivalence towards the concept of responsibility, and he is the first-person narrator, the narrative refuses to offer a clear indictment of Willie's actions.
The importance of the role of the father is reiterated in his contempt for the man he believes is his father (Ellis Burden, the Scholarly Attorney) in the early chapters. This contempt is felt ostensibly because Jack blames him for leaving the marital home and it is as though Jack views this man as emasculated.
The father and son relationship also allows for one of the cruel ironic twists of this work. This is achieved when Jack discovers the identity of his true biological father only after he (Judge Irwin) has committed suicide. This turn of events may be regarded as melodramatic.
The suicide of the Judge also emphasizes the extent of Jack's betrayal as he had viewed him as a father-figure before he knew he was his biological father. The son's search for truth at all costs is paid for with Judge Irwin's death and this exposes the symbolic, mythic rivalry between fathers and sons which dates back to the Bible and Greek myths (such as Oedipus).
The third main father and son bond, between Willie and Tom Stark, is a counterbalance to the quasi relationship between Jack and the Scholarly Attorney. With Willie and Tom, the father draws on powerful masculine stereotypes to maintain the relationship, yet this also dissolves in a puddle of aggressive behavior and sexual bravado.
The disappointed son is also given a form in the characterization of Adam Stanton. His father was a former Governor of Louisiana and Jack's search for 'dirt' on Judge Irwin also reveals that Adam's father ignored obvious signs of corruption.
Spider web theory
It is also important to remember Jack's occupation when considering the use of the theme of truth. As a journalist, this should have been the framework he depended on; however, the novel makes it abundantly clear that the newspaper he worked for was biased against Willie Stark and did not attempt to be objective in its reporting of the news. Jack's resignation from the Chronicle demonstrates an adherence to theimportance of truth, as does his desire to research for his PhD in American history. It could be argued, however, that by not completing this work (and refusing to open the parcel which contains Cass Mastern's old papers), Jack is figuratively trying to distance himself from matters of truth and conscience. Jack may be viewed, therefore, as an ambivalent figure that respects the concept of searching for the truth, but is also selective in his implementation of it. It is not until the novel's end that the reader can see he has grown in moral stature.
All the King's Men: Theme Analysis