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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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The Great Santini Study Guide

Author Biography

Pat Conroy was born in 1945 in Atlanta, Georgia. The first of seven children, their family moved around a lot due to his father’s job as a pilot in the US Marine Corps. The Great Santini was greatly inspired by the emotional and physical abuse that they got from his father while he and his siblings were growing up. The book caused friction within their family, causing his parents to divorce, as well as being a factor to his divorce from his wife, Barbra. He is an acclaimed author of the best-sellers The Water Is Wide, The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and South of Broad.

He was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2004 and won the Outstanding Author Award from the Southeast Library Association in 2006. He currently lives on Fripp Island, South Carolina with his second wife, Lenore.


The book is a semi-autobiographical novel, based on Pat Conroy’s experiences while growing up with a father from the Marine Corps.


The beginning of the book tackled the family’s move from Atlanta, Georgia to Ravenel, South Carolina. The year is 1962, prior to the Vietnam War. Most of the scenes in the book occur in key areas of their town, particularly the Meecham household and the Marine Corps Base.

Character List

Lt. Col. Wilbur “Bull” Meecham - a tough-as-nails Marine Corps fighter pilot who asserts his dominance by being emotionally and physically abusive towards his wife and children.

Lillian Meecham – The matriarch of the Meecham household. Despite her husband’s harshness, she still chooses to see the good in him and serves as the glue that holds the family together.

Ben Meecham – the eldest of Bull and Lillian’s children. He is a talented basketball player who’s out to seek his father’s love and approval by doing whatever he asks from him, even if it’s against his own will.

Mary Anne Meecham – the black sheep of the Meecham family. Mary Anne takes great pleasure in openly disrespecting their father, as she is sick and tired of being abused emotionally and physically.

Matthew Meecham - the youngest Meecham son. He looks up to his brother Ben and is also out to seek their father’s approval, but not so much as his brother.

Karen Meecham – the baby of the family. She’s still too young to be able to completely comprehend her eldest siblings, Ben and Mary Anne, towards their own father, so she just follow whatever they do.

Col. Virgil Hedgepath – Bull’s best friend and Ben’s godfather.

Sammy Wertzberger – Ben’s Jewish friend who is obsessed with having sex with women despite his many failed attempts.

Red Pettus – the resident bully of Calhoun High School. He belongs to a family who are notorious for being hot-headed and narrow-minded.

Arrabella Smalls - the Meecham family’s helper, mother of Toomer Smalls.

Toomer Smalls – an African-American farmer boy who served as one of Ben’s best friends in the town. He is a well-meaning boy who gets made fun of because of his stuttering.

Mr. John Dacus – the principal of Calhoun High School who showed Ben compassion when he needed it the most.

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Celis, Christine. "TheBestNotes on The Great Santini". . 09 May 2017