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In All the King’s Men, Jack Burden repeatedly has difficulty relating to the world, and is constantly plagued by cynicism and apathy for the people that surround him. One cause of this is his mother, Mrs. Murrell, who Jack never mentions except for when he returns home to Burden’s Landing. Because of his mother’s relationship with men, Jack neither feels close nor distant towards her, creating a strange limbo state between motherly love and the physical love she offers to her many husbands. Jack is therefore affected by her choices in marriage negatively, and distrusts women and cannot have a healthy love life because of her influence when he was a child. Because of his mother’s ability to attract men, the issue of the identity of a father figure in his formative years, and the Oedipal tendencies that his mother shows towards him, Jack is stunted when it comes to having a healthy relationship and relating to his own family.First, Jack’s mother has the uncanny ability to attract men of all ages and backgrounds, despite her age, and ‘was the kind of woman who had to have men around and had to make them dance to her tune’ (Warren 110) to make herself feel secure and loved. This has led to many marriages, all of which except for the current one to the Young Executive, of which Jack had ‘wondered how permanent they were’ (Warren 115), had ended in divorce. Jack recalls that his young self watched all of these marriages disintegrate, and as a result never expected a continuous lifestyle or a father figure to look up to. The strange thing about Jack and his mother is they both pretend that their relationship isn’t strained by these issues every time he returns home to Burden’s Landing. However, he cannot stand to be near his mother …

… trust his mother, and often isn’t able to take many of the women that surround him seriously.Through the novel, Jack is unable to fully contemplate or experience a truly healthy relationship, no matter whether it is between his mother and himself or from observing the interactions between Willie and his wife Lucy. His inability to carry on a healthy relationship with Anne, a woman who he sincerely loves, stunts him emotionally and turns him cold to the world and the people that he works with. But the sources of all of these troubles all originate in his early years in Burden’s Landing, where his mother’s needs eclipsed those of her own child, and as a result injure him later in his life. Ultimately, Jack and his mother’s strained relationship drive him away from any chance of a normal family life and continue to create tension through his adult years as well.

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