If an individual is cognizant of their actions and demonstrate a level of regret directed toward their behavior or its implications, does this suggest the individual is truly aware of their behavior (i.e. The theoretical "information" defined earlier) and therefore incapable of engaging in "self-deception" at this point? This is a deeply philosophical question to answer, one that escapes the confines of what is analyzed here; however in addressing this question at the margins, will impact the level to which "self-deception" is prevalent and influential throughout the literary analysis involving Jack and Willie -- the professor and the dutiful student. The individual "plays a role"; engages in acting to create a false paradigm that lends itself to the further creation of a false consciousness. Does Jack do this? One could argue that he does, as will be demonstrated, by transforming himself into a political hatchet man after he is introduced to the reader as a clean cut, southern gentleman from well entrenched aristocracy.
Justification is another aspect of "self-deception" (Frost 18). An individual seeks not only consistency but absolution for their actions related to certain degrees of behavior. Therefore, an individual will inevitably seek to create lucid- or at least what the individual considers lucid-justifications for their actions (Wegner 4). This justification will fit within their purview and forgive any derelict behavior. Creating this justification creates a divergence between self and conscious reality for the individual. If the individual perceives himself/herself accurately then there is no disparity; however, an individual excusing bad behavior may create a segmented "reality" where there interpretation of one's self differs from the truth-therein creating a segregated "reality"-and ultimately exacerbating their "self-deception."
The concept of "self-deception" with all of its elements, presentations and deep principles rooted in philosophical existentialistic discussions of realty and how reality relates to self and consciousness remains, inherently, a contradictory premise (Wegner 5). It is hard to logically reconcile the behavior of an individual and their ability to maintain a working, fully functional psychological construct that supports two totally different veins of behavior. There are some that refer to this ability as "compartmentalization." However, is there a fine line between compartmentalizing and being devoid of any emotion, rational or irrational?
This is certainly a valid consideration when considering the broad implications of being able to fully function in a segregated reality where the individual perceives themselves as perfectly normal and operating within a well defined paradigm that excuses behavior that other individuals would find repugnant. So how does this construct related to the main characters in "All the Kings Men"? Does either Jack or Willie engage in "Self Deception"? One would have to initially answer yes to this question given the very nature of politics. A closer examination reveals that Jack Burden experience most, if not all, of the elements defined as part of "self-deception" (Bloom).
Weighed down by the force of history, his family history, Jack ultimately rejects his roots and turns instead to embrace the debauchery that is prevalent within Willie Stark's band of not-so-merry men (Perkins 25). In order for Jack to operate within this paradigm, he must engage in a level of "self-deception" or de minimus "self-rejection" (Booth 118). The remaining portion of this discussion focuses on the interface between the concept of "self-deception: and Jack Burden's role within the plot of "the entire King's Men."
The novel begins with a recounting of the incident where Jack and then Governor Stark are driving along a highway in Mason City. Jack, who at this point is narrating the story, explains how throngs of people showed up to welcome their beloved Governor to their corner of the world (Grimshaw 47). This is the first time, the audience is introduced to Willie Stark and they are met with intense flair and passion from Governor Stark. His uncanny ability to control a crowd, even on a whim, greets the audience within the first few stanzas of the unfolding narrative. It is not to long before the audience first experiences...
Jack recounts the portion of the afternoon wherein he and Governor Stark visit the home of Judge Irwin-apparently a prominent judge that endorsed Stark's political opponent (Grimshaw 48). The conversation-if one refers to it as such- becomes hostile, ultimately concluding in Governor Stark and Jack being excommunicated from the Irwin household. Ultimately, Governor Stark requests that Jack find "dirt" on Judge Irwin and instructs him, with stark clarity (no pun intended) to make it "stick" (Grimshaw 49). Herein represents the first evidence of the nature of Jack's relationship with Governor Stark. The politically astute observers would immediately draw the comparison between Jack Burden and the political operatives Charlie Black, Lee Atwater, James Carville and Paul Begala- representatives of those who engage in "opposition research" a clean, antiseptic term to define the very behavior that Mr. Burden must engage upon.
So how does Jack reconcile this behavior to himself? Although it is early in the novel and the plot has yet to fully develop, there are present all of the elements of "self-deception" and they only get stronger as the novel progresses. This first chapter is the initial representation of Jack's ability to construct "justifications" for what he does for Governor Stark. Jack's own narratives support this very supposition. According to Mr. Burden, there is no real "reality"; reality is what can be defined within Jack's own consciousness. This serves a bifurcated purpose. First, it corroborates the presence of Jack creating a "justification" for his actions and second, it beings the process of Jack constructing a segregated "reality" that allows him to operate on a daily measure within two separate paradigms, one being his role in Governor Stark's inner circle with all the actions required of him and second, his knowledge of his own ethics and the philosophical juxtapositions that he must embark upon in order to live with himself. The preceding sections of the narrative entail Governor Stark's rise to power but they also shed critical light on the development of Jack's construct reality that lends itself quite well to the concept of "convenient ignorance."
The description of the period wherein Willie Stark rose to political prominence factors in quite heavily to this analysis of "self-deception" (Mansfield 109). Jack recounts the evolution of Willie Stark from idealistic-some would say ignorant-poor farm boy from the rural sticks to political master. Willie Stark began his career as Mason County Treasurer-Jack, a reporter at the time for the Chronicle followed the spry young politician as he strived to do what all political neophytes attempt to do-change the system and make a difference. However noble this cause is deemed to be there are rarely any instances wherein those who set out to achieve this lofty objective are ever successful. Willie Stark was no exception. Jack tells the story, in detail, of how Willie was run out of political office for being an honest politician, how this lead to him becoming an attorney and eventually a political straw man in a hotly contested Governor's race.
Jack's narrative is an exposition into the evolution of a political icon within the state of Louisiana. Jack traces the development of Willie Stark from neophyte to political powerhouse in a relatively short time span. This is a testament to the evolution of these two characters to exponentially increase their ability to engage in "Self-Deception" (Blair 39). This is clearly evident in the following prose uttered by Jack when he is trying to explain to Willie how to hold a crowd's attention:
Hell, make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em think you're God-Almighty. Or make 'em mad. Even mad at you. Just stir 'em up, it doesn't matter how or why, and they'll love you and come back for more. Pinch them in the soft place. They aren't alive, most of 'em haven't been alive in twenty years. Hell, their wives have lost their teeth and their shape, and likker won't set on their stomachs, and they don't believe in God, so it's up to you to give 'em something to stir 'em up and make 'em feel again.... But for Sweet Jesus' sake don't try to improve their minds (Warren 21).
The question now becomes, when taking this quote into context from what Jack has already exhibited from the first chapter, to what degree will Jack proceed to continue building this false reality, this false perception of himself as one who keenly understands what needs to be done to connect with an audience? Clearly Jack has experience being the political beat reporter for the Chronicle and it would stand to reason that Jack would have personal knowledge after seeing candidate after candidate on the stump. However, this quote and attitude that it suggests raises another point that warrants some cursory analysis. Jack's background, as a traditional southern aristocrat would never…
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