The amount of change people go through in their lives is remarkable. One day, a person can be a devious criminal, while the next day that same person could turn a new leaf and become a saint. The change that Jack goes through in All the Kings Men, by Robert Penn Warren, is comparable to that of the schizophrenic patient who receives a lobotomy. Although Jack undergoes no physical change, the events he witnesses change his personality, and transform him into an entirely new man. While Jack views the world in a schizophrenic fashion, in the end he changes his philosophical mind frame and finds the cure for his disease.
Jack does view the world in a schizophrenic manner. According to Webster’s dictionary, the psychosis for schizophrenia is a retreating from reality. Jack retreats from reality a lot. When Jack found out that Anne was having an affair with Willie, he disconnected himself from reality. He went west, to Long Beach, where he commenced with his great sleep. The great sleep was a very important thing for jack because it allowed him to avoid reality. He would sleep and everything else would go on. While in Long Beach, Jack thought that he had discovered the greatest thought he ever had. That thought was the great twitch, a belief that there are no consequences for actions since they are only twitches of impulses. This thought was probably the biggest attempt to evade reality. Believing in the great twitch, Jack set himself apart from the rest of the world. By thinking that no one could be blamed for anything, he dodged blame from himself. By acting out the great sleep and the Great twitch, he was able to act like a schizophrenic until he had a change in philosophical views.
Jack’s philosophical views changed, just as the view of the patient would have after the surgery. Jack was, in the beginning of the novel, a believer in The Great Twitch. He becomes, in the end of the novel, a believer in the Spider Web Theory, a belief that all things are connected and every action has some effect on everything else. At the scene of the lobotomy, Jack comments that someone should baptize the patient “in the name of the Big Twitch, the Little Twitch, and the Holy Ghost, Who, no doubt, is a Twitch, too.” Towards the end of the story, Jack “woke up one morning to discover that he did not believe in the Great Twitch any more.” He did not believe in it because he had seen “too many people live and die.” Jack begins to care. When he believed in The Great Twitch, the only defense in Jacks mind against anyone who questioned his actions was that the people “werent real,” so it did not matter. He believed that every person’s actions were a sort of reflex, hence he could not be blamed for anything. Now that he believes in the Spider web Theory, Jack realizes that things do matter, and that people are real. This is parallel to the patient who goes from staring “into space,” to being “relaxed and cheerful and friendly.” Jack goes from thinking that people are not real and that nothing makes any difference, to understanding that actions do indeed have consequences.
Jack did undergo a cure. He was lost in the beginning and the middle of the novel, but with the belief in the theory of the spider web, and his desertion of the great sleep and great twitch, he was found. Through the deaths of all that were close to him, he found himself. By finding the truth in himself, Jack was able to forget the great twitch and the great sleep. By acknowledging the spider web theory, Jack was able to view the world in a better and a more true way. Like the schizophrenic patient, Jack’s mind was obscured. It was obscured because he had the blame evading ideologies of the great twitch. Now he is cured because he deserted the idea of the great twitch and accepted that a person must take responsibility for his own actions. Throughout the novel, Jack evaded responsibility. To avoid responsibility, he went into the great sleep, or resorted to theories such as the great twitch. At the end of the novel, Jack was able to understand the Cass Mastern story. He was able to understand it because now he accepted responsibility. The story of Cass Mastern was that of responsibility. Cass felt responsible for the death of Duncan trice, therefore wanted to be responsible for Phepe, and the people around him. In order to understand that story, Jack had to accept responsibility, not run away from it. Jack had to find himself to be secure enough to accept that responsibility. In the end, Jack is cured because he has found himself, and is able to understand the story of Cass Mastern and responsibility.
It is important to observe that Jack has a schizophrenic view of the world. This indicates the scope of Jacks change – not many people go through a conversion that can be so adequately compared to a lobotomy. The similarities between Jack and the patient represent the extent of Jacks transformation. Jack does go from one personality to an entirely new one, with a philosophical change of the way he views the world. The result is a tone of hope. In the final words of the novel: “If there is hope for (Jack), then there is hope for everyone”. Hope that people can change not by surgery, or seeing people live and die, but by witnessing the story and the life of one Jack Burden.
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