Writing in 1939, three years after that scene, Jack re ects that Masters--who did get elected to the Senate--is now dead, and Adam Stanton is dead, and Judge Irwin is dead, and Willie himself is dead: Willie, who told Jack to find some dirt on Judge Irwin and make it stick. And Jack remembers: "Little Jackie made it stick, all right."
Chapter 2 Summary
Jack Burden remembers the years during which Willie Stark rose to power. While Willie was Mason County Treasurer, he became embroiled in a controversy over the building contract for the new school. The head of the city council awarded the contract to the business partner of one of his relatives, no doubt receiving a healthy kickback for doing so. The political machine attempted to run this contract over Willie, but Willie insisted that the contract be awarded to the lowest bidder. The local big-shots responded by spreading the story that the lowest bidder would import black labor to construct the building, and, Mason County being redneck country, the people sided against Willie, who was trounced in the next election. Jack Burden covered all this in the Chronicle, which sided with Willie.
After he was beaten out of offce, Willie worked on his father's farm, hit the law books at night, and eventually passed the state bar exam. He set up his own law practice. Then one day during a fire drill at the new school, a fire escape collapsed due to faulty construction and three students died. At the funeral, one of the bereaved fathers stood by Willie and cried aloud that he had been punished for voting against an honest man. After that, Willie was a local hero. During the next gubernatorial election, in which Harrison ran against MacMurfee, the vote was pretty evenly divided between city-dwellers, who supported Harrison, and country folk, who supported MacMurfee. The Harrison camp decided to split the MacMurfee vote by secretly setting up another candidate who could draw some of MacMurfee's support in the country. They settled on Willie. One day Harrison's man, Tiny Dufiy, visited Willie in Mason City and convinced him that he was God's choice to run for governor.
Willie wanted the offce desperately, and so he believed him.Willie stumped the state, and Jack Burden covered his campaign for the Chronicle. Willie was a terrible candidate. His speeches were full of facts and figures; he never stirred the emotions of the crowd. Eventually Sadie Burke, who was with the Harrison camp and followed Willie's campaign, revealed to Willie that he had been set up. Enraged, Willie gulped down a whole bottle of whiskey and passed out in Jack Burden's room. The next day, he struggled to make it to his campaign barbecue in the city of Upton. To help Willie overcome his hangover, Jack had to fill him full of whiskey again. At the barbecue, the furious, drunken Willie gave the crowd a fire-and-brimstone speech in which he declared that he had been set up, that he was just a hick like everyone else in the crowd, and that he was withdrawing from the race to support MacMurfee. But if MacMurfee didn't deliver for the little people, Willie admonished the hearers to nail him to the door. Willie said that if they passed him the hammer he'd nail him to the door himself. Tiny Dufiy tried to stop the speech, but fell off the stage.
Willie stumped for MacMurfee, who won the election. Afterwards, Willie returned to his law practice, at which he made a great deal of money and won some high- proffle cases. Jack didn't see Willie again until the next election, when the political battlefield had changed: Willie now owned the Democratic Party. Jack quit his job at the Chronicle because the paper was forcing him to support MacMurfee in his column, and slumped into a depression. He spent all his time sleeping and piddling around--he called the period "the Great Sleep," and said it had happened twice before, once just before he walked away from his doctoral dissertation in American History, and once after Lois divorced him. During the Great Sleep Jack occasionally visited Adam Stanton, took Anne Stanton to dinner a few times, and visited his father, who now spent all his time handing out religious iers. At some point during this time Willie was elected governor.
One morning Jack received a phone call from Sadie Burke, saying that the Boss wanted to see him the next morning at ten. Jack asked who the Boss was, and she replied, "Willie Stark, Governor Stark, or don't you read the papers?" Jack went to see Willie, who offered him a job for $3,600 a year. Jack asked Willie who he would be working for--Willie or the state.
Willie said he would be working for him, not the state. Jack wondered how Willie could afiord to pay him $3,600 a year when the governorship only paid $5,000. But then he remembered the money Willie had made as a lawyer. He accepted the job, and the next night he went to have dinner at the Governor's mansion.
Chapter 3 Summary
Jack Burden tells about going home to Burden's Landing to visit his mother, some time in 1933. His mother disapproves of his working for Willie, and Theodore Murrell (his mother's husband, whom Jack thinks of as "the Young Executive") irritates him with his questions about politics. Jack remembers being happy in the family's mansion until he was six years old, when his father ("the Scholarly Attorney") left home to distribute religious pamphlets, and Jack's mother told him he had gone because he didn't love her anymore. She then married a succession of men: the Tycoon, the Count, and finally the Young Executive. Jack remembers picnicking with Adam and Anne Stanton, and swimming with Anne. He remembers arguing with his mother in 1915 over his decision to go to the State University instead of to Harvard.
That night in 1933, Jack, his mother, and the Young Executive go to Judge Irwin's for a dinner party; the assembled aristocrats talk politics, and are staunchly opposed to Willie Stark's liberal reforms. Jack is forced to entertain the pretty young Miss Dumonde, who irritates him. When he drives back to Willie's hotel, he kisses Sadie Burke on the forehead, simply because she isn't named Dumonde. On the drive back, Jack thinks about his parents in their youth, when his father brought his mother to Burden's Landing from her home in Arkansas. In Willie's room, hell is breaking loose: MacMurfee's men in the Legislature are mounting an impeachment attempt on Byram B. White, the state auditor, who has been involved in a graft scandal. Willie humiliates and insults White, but decides to protect him. This decision causes Hugh Miller, Willie's Attorney General, to resign from offce, and nearly provokes Lucy into leaving Willie. Willie orders Jack to dig up dirt on MacMurfee's men in the Legislature, and he begins frenetically stumping the state, giving speeches during the day and intimidating and blackmailing MacMurfee's men at night. Stunned by his aggressive activity, MacMurfee's men attempt to seize the offensive by impeaching Willie himself. But the blackmailing efiorts work, and the impeachment is called off before the vote can be taken. Still, the day of the impeachment, a huge crowd descends on the capital in support of Willie. Willie tells Jack that after the impeachment he is going to build a massive, state-of-the-art hospital; Willie wins his next election by a landslide.
During all this time, Jack re ects on Willie's sexual conquests--he has begun a long-term afiair with Sadie Burke, who is fiercely jealous of his other mistresses, but Lucy seems to know nothing about it. Lucy does eventually leave Willie, spending time in St. Augustine and then at her sister's poultry farm, but they keep up the appearance of marriage. Jack speculates that Lucy does not sever all her ties with Willie for Tommy's sake, though teen-aged Tommy has become an arrogant football star with a string of sexual exploits of his own.
Chapter 4 Summary
Returning to the night in 1936 when he, Willie, and Sugar-Boy drove away from Judge Irwin's house, Jack re ects that his inquiry into Judge Irwin's past was really his second major historical study. He recalls his first, as a graduate student at the State University, studying for his Ph.D. in American History. Jack lived in a slovenly apartment with a pair of slovenly roommates, and blew all the money his mother sent him on drinking binges. He was writing his dissertation on the papers of Cass Mastern, his father's uncle.
As a student at Translyvania College in the 1850s, Cass Mastern had had an afiair with Annabelle Trice, the wife of his friend Duncan Trice. When Duncan discovered the afiair, he took off his wedding ring and shot himself, a suicide that was chalked up to accident. But Phebe, one of the Trices' slaves, had found the ring, and taken it to Annabelle Trice. Annabelle had been unable to bear the knowledge that Phebe knew about her sin, and so she sold her. Appalled to learn that Annabelle had sold Phebe instead of setting her free--and appalled to learn that she had separated the slave from her husband--Cass set out to find and free Phebe; but he failed, wounded in a fight with a man who ins