Willie Stark, called “the Boss,” the governor of the state. A relentless, unyielding man, Willie has the capacity and the will to break anyone who opposes him. Often ruthless, he is not entirely bad, but his dictatorial powers grow until he is the leader of a powerful political machine. Nevertheless, he does more for the ordinary people of his state than did his more aristocratic predecessors. By improving schools, roads, and hospitals, he leaves these things behind him as monuments after his death. At last, even Jack Burden realizes that there was a streak of greatness in Stark.
Jack Burden, the narrator and Willie Stark’s factotum. Although a capable man, Burden has spells he calls the “Great Sleep.” During these periods, he becomes completely indifferent to what he is doing at the time. While attempting to finish his Ph.D. dissertation, he went into the “Great Sleep”; as a result, the degree was never completed. A cynical man, he realizes after Willie’s death the hidden greatness in the “Boss’s” character. Somehow, this realization makes Jack feel better about himself and the rest of humankind.
Anne Stanton, Jack Burden’s former sweetheart and the daughter of an earlier governor. After meeting Willie Stark, Anne becomes his mistress, thus bringing destruction to him and to her brother Adam. After Stark’s death, she...
(The entire section is 589 words.)