This nursery rhyme is probably the precursor to many of the political thrillers of the modern era, but subtler than a Tom Clancy novel, and in that subtly lies a powerful message of brutality and oppression of the union movement by corrupt monarchs. In these days of casual employment, corrupt politicians and businesses, it's a timely reminder of the risks we all face when we turn a blind eye to the corruption of the powerful.
Our hero, a worker by the name of Humpty Dumpty, is introduced to the reader as an easy-going character, happy to sit around, amongst his fellow workers on a construction site, atop a wall. While his easy confidence suggests there is more this character than a mere layman, it will be in the events that follow that we learn who he is. For now, however, it's a story of a simple life being told, one we can all relate to, if not experience.
But the apparent calm quickly vanishes as the reader is then taken into a storm of political intrigue as out of nowhere, this confident character is seen, without warning, falling from the wall. How can this happen, we ask ourselves? How can a man who seemed to confident that he could sit upon the wall just suddenly fall? It is at this point the mystery unravels with the almost immediately.
Out of nowhere, all the King's horsemen are seen rushing in to secure the area, concern written on their faces as the fallen worker writhes in pain, bones apparently broken. And we are allowed to think, just for a moment, that the monarchy is there for the workers, ready to support them in their hour of need. It doesn't take long however for the first doubts to creep in, suspicion of how quickly the King's men responded casting a shadow over this apparent olive branch held out by the government to the working class.
Is the reader to believe them when the King's men say they happened to be 'just in the area' at the time of the 'accident'? Why would the King send all his men, merely for the medical aid of a single worker? If they weren't just in the area, how would the King have known to send them there almost immediately of the even happening?
How are we then to interpret "couldn't put Humpty together again"? The most obvious, naturally, is the lack of ability of government agents to perform basic first aid as first responders. But to think, that for all their might at arms, these banner men riding their powerful beasts, knowledgeable in a thousand ways to kill, would not have even the know how to apply a splint?
This of course is the point the author is trying to make; they would know, being soldiers, how to perform first aid and that the only reason they "couldn't" put the worker together again is due to orders from their superiors. Or superior, as it's made very clear that these are "the king's men".
And the question is there, like the proverbial white elephant: if the King knew of the events that would lead to Humpty's downfall, such that he would send his men on their horses, why did he not send his royal medics, his Kings Doctors in their ambulances? And why would the King care so much for just your common worker? Simply put he wouldn't, which reveals Humpty's true identity, someone who would be a leader of men opposed to the King's tyranny, a union leader. Someone who the King would see as a threat, and so wish to have removed.
Upon realising this, the story reveals a much darker and sinister future awaiting our comrade, one which may highlight the true corruption of imperialism. The author, by explicitly saying they couldn't put Humpty together again, makes a subtle suggestion that by not putting him together, Humpty remains broken. And herein lies the tragedy of the hero, and injustice of the crown. Not enough to simply trying to kill a threat to the throne, the King wishes Humpty to suffer, no doubt as warning to others.
Without access to royal healers, Humpty will now face years of pain while his body heals, if it ever does. Without relief, he surely would not be able to work, not even as a union official, and so faces potential bankruptcy has he tries to cover his medical bills.
Humpty, broke and broken, is how our story ends, and emotionally we are left the same. And this is the moral of the story; if we do not protect ourselves through our solidarity, we cannot expect to be saved by those in power, for they are more likely than not the reason we fall.