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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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The Great Santini Study Guide

Chapter 10 Summary

Prior to the change of command ceremony for their father, the kids were feeling anxious because their dad has been around them for far too long, according to Mary Anne. Bull decided to take Ben and Matthew to the base to have their hair cut by a Marine barber, something that he wants his sons to get ever week. Ben got so used to the barbers in Georgia and felt violated by the rough hands of the Marine barber. Their father was so meticulous about the haircut that he gives strict instructions to how the barber should cut their hair. The brothers both hated their hairstyles after the barbers were done with them. Ben then promised his brother that heíll show him how he beats their father in basketball. Matt protested and told his brother that thereís not a sport in the world where their father couldnít beat Ben.


Their match was set at 5 in the afternoon. Lillian coached her son and told Ben that he shouldnít listen to his father if he doesnít want to get beaten at the game. Bull emerged from the house. Matt pleaded to join the game, to which his dad responded by denying his request. He ran back to the house, with Mary Anne being the only one who noticed his crying and followed him. The game started, with Bull bellowing out some jeers and insults to distract Ben. Deep inside, he was well aware that none of Bull Meechamís sons could ever beat him at any sport because of his fierceness. The only weapon Ben had against his father was his youth. He beat his father at the game, with his mother and his siblings coming to his side right after. Mary Anne approached her father and tried to give him some words of comfort. Bull responded by making his daughter cry with mean words.

Bull tried to cheat his son out of winning by making him play another game. Ben was determined to beat his father again, but Lillian put a stop to it. Lillian was mad at Bull for picking on his family just because he lost to his son. Bull pushed her towards the house and kicked her in her buttocks. The kids were shouting at him to stop kicking their mom. He continued to kick her towards the stairs, until Lillian started to make run for the kitchen. Bull was about to kick her another time when Ben stood between him and Lillian. Ben was trembling with anger as he stood face to face with his dad. Bull took the basketball and taunted his son by chanting ďCry, cry, cry.Ē, bouncing the ball on his head every time he said a word. Ben tried his hardest to not cry despite his fatherís taunts.

Notes: Bullís competitiveness knows no bounds that even his son is not exempted from it. He treats his son as if Benís just trying to show off instead of having a natural ability.



Chapter 11 Summary


The same evening, Ben watched his father practice shooting from his bedroom window. His dad didnít return to the house until around dinnertime during which, nobody spoke to Bull. All of his kids didnít feel like speaking to him at all. Lillian checked up on Ben and asked him how he was doing. She assured his son that if Bull taunts Ben again; she will leave him for good. Ben said that he no longer cares, as heís leaving the family during the year, he just wants to make it without being torn apart by his dad. Lillian asked Ben to help with their dadís temper, but Ben refuses to, citing that he actually wishes that the country would go to war instead so his dad could go away. He expressed his frustration with his dad taking out his anger towards him. He started enumerating all of the times that his dad has physically hurt him. Lillian defended her husband and told Ben that his fatherís just under constant pressure from his job.

Ben asked his mother if she truly loves their dad. He began asking her about how she feels about his dadís crappy treatment towards her. Lillian feigned innocence and told Ben that their fatherís kind to her. Ben unearthed a shirt from his drawer, covered in dried blood. He told Lillian that it was all her blood, from the time that their father hit her on the nose. Lillian insisted that Bull has never hit her. Ben asked her why she couldnít leave him. Lillian finally cracked and told them that she didnít want the children to grow up in a broken home. She didnít want them to go through the same things that she went through. She continued to console her son and told him that his father was practicing basketball because he was finally admitting that heís getting older and that he was sorry for what he had done to his son earlier.

Notes: Lillian showed her role as a peacemaker in the family, assuring Ben that his father was sorry about what he did despite not saying anything. She expressed her want to keep Bull around to protect her children from growing up like her.

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