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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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Chapter 12 Summary

Bull sat behind his desk and savored his first moments as the commanding officer of squadron. It was his first time to be all by himself ever since his change of command ceremony. Lillian and the kids all stood by him on the stand. Now that he has the position that he has coveted for so long, and yet he doesnít feel fulfilled. He didnít expect to feel to this way. He called for Sergeant Latito, asking him about the briefing that he called for the pilots and officers. Bull insisted that he Latito is Jewish, despite the sergeantís confirmation that he was actually Italian. Bull told him that if he wants Latito to be Jewish, Latito needs to be Jewish. Before dismissing the sergeant, he dropped hints about wanting to taste Latitoís wifeís lasagna that next time she makes a batch.

At exactly 1230 hours, Bull Meechan entered the briefing room to meet the members of his squadron for the very first time. He recognized some of them from previous assignments and bases that heís been with, and met the rest of them prior to his inauguration as the new commander. But this was the very first time that heíll be addressing everyone as a group. Bull has been rehearsing his speech for the past 12 years. He had collected enough information about the strengths and weaknesses of the speeches of the commanders that he served under before, so he had enough to deliver a speech that was strong enough for him. He started the speech by setting expectationsó about how heís the meanest, and yet the best commander that they will ever have during their tenure in the Marines. He wanted his team to look at him as if he was a god. He wanted his whole team to be proud of who they were and serve with utmost aggression and determination. After the major part of his speech was over, he asked who attended an Ivy League school prior to joining the Marines in his team. One member revealed that he was from Cornell University, something that Bull reacted to negatively.

His next question was for those who attended the Naval Academy. One hand shot up, telling Bull that he didnít fly with the Navy because he wanted to be with the bestó the marines. Bull dismissed the team and was pleased enough with the sudden boost of morale that he provided for squadron 367. After all the officers went out, a captain knocked on the door and reported directly to Bull. He made fun of Captain Johnson's small stature and high-pitched voice. Bull presented to him his theory about how men with shorter heights join the Marines to prove something because theyíre pissed off. Johnson admitted to Bull that he did join the Marines because he had to prove something. Johnson also told him that he thinks that Bull is only second best to him when it comes to flying. Bull admired his attitude, but kept to himself about how he thought that Johnson will never be a good Marine. After Johnson left, he called Latito back.

Notes: Bullís authoritativeness is the main topic of this chapter again. His mind is set on creating the best squadron in history, thatís why heís instilling discipline and order in the form of berating his own officers.

Chapter 13 Summary

Despite all their preparations, Ben and Mary Anne still felt uncomfortable with entering a new high school. It always takes the two of them quite a while before they get used to the daily routine of going to school. Every year, Lillian always gives them a pep talk during the first day of school. They knew that they were bound to make friends from their new school at some point, but their father always announces that they have to move once theyíve shared bonds with those friends.

John C. Calhoun High School had two wings added to accommodate the kids of Marine officers who came to town because of the Ravenel Air Base. Ben and Mary Anne walked through the halls of Calhoun High together, gaining strength from each otherís presence. They both felt paranoid, as if all eyes were focused on them. Ben had a horrible first period during homeroom because he wasnít elected to any position in class. He thinks that his classmates thought that he had no leadership qualities.

On the Thursday of their second week of school, Ben and Mary Anne saw Red bullying a smaller boy named Sammy during their lunch period. Red was forcing Sammy, a Jew, to say ďHeil Hitler.Ē Mary Anne pleaded for Ben to help out the boy. Ben knew that Mary Anne would end up being the one defending Sammy. Ben decided quickly and stood up to Red. Red took out a switchblade from his pockets and pointed it on Benís throat. The knife disappeared when Mary Anne bellowed that a teacher was coming. She told her brother that he has to beat up Red if he didnít want their father to kill him. Red returned and was met by a slam on his head from Benís history book. Chaos ensued, with Sammy and Mary Anne helping Ben out. All of a sudden, teachers started coming towards their direction, prying apart the crowd. Finally, the principal pulled Ben away and introduced himself.

Ben was summoned into the principalís office and was starting to create excuses inside his head so he could explain to his dad how he got involved in the fight. Bull wasnít one who would mind the fight, but he would rage about how Ben got caught. The principal, John Dacus, was studying Benís transcript when he was informed over the phone about the injuries sustained by the other boys in the fight. He told Ben that Redís group was the roughest in their school. Mary Anne intruded and told the principal that she should be the one in trouble instead of her brother. They told the principal about what happened prior to the fight and he became agitated when he found out that Red pulled a knife on Ben. Mr. Dacus told Ben that Redís family is the meanest in their area and that they should avoid crossing them. Just as Ben was feeling comfortable towards the principal, Mr. Dacus told him that he was suspended, along with his sister and Sammy.

Ben protested, but Mr. Dacus said that it will be only for one day so as to prevent Redís gang wonít do anything drastic to them. Ben was worried about how his father would react, to which Mr. Dacus responded that heíll take care of everything. As Mary Anne and Ben were reaching the street by their house, Red and his gang appeared out of nowhere. Ben sent his sister to get their dad. Red and three others started ganging up on Ben. The Meechamís car rolled out of the driveway and went directly towards the fighting group of boys. Virgil and Bull emerged from the car and intimidated the other boys. The two men started attacking the other boys, with Ben focusing on Red. Bull sprinted towards the car that Red rode in and leaped up and down on the hood, making sure he left footprints all over. Ben emerged from his bedroom after dinnertime to say good night to the adults. Bull was proud of his two kids about what happened at the school earlier. Notes: Benís drive for defending the weak actually came from Bull, but it wonít be pointed out until the later chapters. Mr. Dacus will end up being crucial to Benís days in Ravenel.

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