The amount of change people go through in their lives is remarkable. One day, you can be a devious criminal, while the next you could turn a new leaf and become a saint. The change that Jack goes through in All the King’s Men, is comparable to that of the patient who receives a lobotomy. Although Jack undergoes no physical change, the events he witnesses rock his personality, and transforms him into an entirely new man. His metamorphosis from the beginning of the story to the end has as many parallels to the faceless patient’s operation as it does differences.
Besides the obvious fact that no one ever operated on Jack, there are still many differences between him and the lobotomy patient. The most significant difference, however, lies in the reason for both men’s change. Adam remarks that the man will have a completely “new personality”, and when Jack brings up the concept of baptism, Adam adds that a baptismal is different because it does not give you a new personality, it merely gives you a new set of values to exercise your personality in. Here is where Jack and the patient differs. Jack is the complete opposite. While the man will have a new personality, Jack will go on to have the same personality, but exercise it in a different set of values. The man the reader comes to know in the final pages of the novel is still recognizable as Jack. In these final pages, Jack notes that Hugh Miller “will get back into politics,” and that Jack himself will “be along to hold his coat.” One will recall Miller as the Attorney General who resigned to keep “his hands from getting dirty.” This is a clear example of Jack’s new set of values. Jack will keep doing what he has done for so many years -working in politics – because his personality has not changed. Nevertheless, his new set of values will not allow him to work for someone who is amoral any longer.
Although there are such discernible differences as the one previously mentioned, one must also realize that there are prominent similarities between Jack and the anonymous patient. The leading similarity, strangely enough, is connected to the change cited earlier. Jack’s new set of values is what is equivalent to the new values the patient receives along with his new personality. Jack goes from being a believer in The Great Twitch, a belief that there are no consequences for actions since they are only “twitches” of impulses, to being a believer in the Spiderweb Theory, a belief that all things are connected and every action has some effect on everything else. Jack even 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 Jack’s mind against anyone who questioned his actions was that the people “weren’t real,” so it does not matter. Now that he believes in the Spiderweb Theory, Jack realizes that things do matter, and that people are real. This is akin to the patient who goes from staring “into space,” to being “relaxed and cheerful and friendly.” Both Jack and the patient go from thinking that people are not real and that nothing makes any difference, to understanding that actions do indeed have consequences.
It is important to observe that closeness with which the similarity and difference discussed here are related. This relation in itself indicates the scope of Jack’s change – not many people go through a conversion that can be so adequately compared to a lobotomy. While the similarities between Jack and the patient represent the extent of Jack’s transformation, the subtle differences serve a different purpose; they give him an air of humanity. Jack does not go from one personality to an entirely new one. This