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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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The Great Santini Study Guide

Chapter 14 Summary

Bull strategized intensely about how he could become the best squadron commander in the history of the Marine Corps. He knew that deep inside, a war against Cuba is an inevitability and that it was soon. He already had an idea about the qualities of a great commander and everything else is just trial and error for him. He inherited quite a few problems in 367, but he was confident that he would be able to purify it. He noticed that previous commanders of other squadrons failed to establish a good rapport with the citizens of the area they were staying at. He wanted a satisfactory solution, so he sought out a way to do so. He started spending a part of his weekday morning at Hobie’s Grill, a place owned by Hobie Rawls, the mayor of Ravenel. It was a gathering place of the men of Ravenel who wanted to gossip or hear the news circulating in their town.

It’s no easy feat for a stranger to infiltrate the inner circle of the grill, however, through routine; Bull was able to do so. He immediately took a liking to the restaurant’s ambiance. He was immediately introduced to the men in the neighborhood, with Zell Posey being the first to open up to him about Zell’s admiration for Marine men.

Notes: Bull is very intricate with his business in the Marines. He has strategies and tactics that can help him gain the confidence and respect of the citizens of the area around them.


Chapter 15 Summary


Three weeks after school started, Bull arrived just as Lillian was putting the night’s dinner on the table. During the length of her career as a Marine wife, she has failed to teach her husband how to inform her if he’ll be coming home late or not at all. The two had an argument after Lillian reprimanded Bull for eating with his hands instead of using utensils. She argued that she wants the children to learn good table manners. Bull informed Ben that he set up a date for him with Ansley Matthews, daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Matthews. Ben told his dad that he’s not going on a date on Saturday night. Bull picked on his son for being potentially gay because of his refusal to go on dates. Mary Anne was sent up to her room for comparing her dad to the Java Man.


On Saturday night, Ben took his dad’s 1951 Plymouth to pick Ansley up from their place on Command Circle. Colonel and Mrs. Matthews were awestruck by Ben’s impeccable manners. Upon seeing Ansley, he immediately thought that she was far too pretty to go on a date with someone like him. The two started talking and opened up about their frustrations towards their parents for forcing them to go on the date. Ansley insisted that they go to the Shack for their date, instructing Ben to order her some food as she said hi to some of her friends from school. Ben felt saddened because Ansley seemed happy to escape his presence. Suddenly, Ansley’s boyfriend pulled over in his car and she asked Ben if he could let her spend the rest of the night with him. Ben decided to go someplace else and was followed by Sammy, who gave him words of encouragement.

Notes: As always, image is important with Bull, that even his children need to keep up. Ben’s girl woes were shown and how resilient and passive he was despite being stepped on by other.

Chapter 16 Summary


Bull went to the Catholic church and met with the priest. He wanted to speak to the father about building a Catholic school. He ended up signing Ben and Matthew up to serve at the 11:15 mass every Sunday for the rest of the school year. He also enrolled Ben and Mary Anne for catechism class every Wednesday night. He wanted to make sure that his children maintained their Catholic faith despite the fact that they’re not enrolled in a Catholic school.

Ben and Mary Anne attended their first catechism class and wasn’t into the class at all. They spent the class writing each notes while Sister Loretta Marie taught in front. Ben was called out in front of the class for laughing at what Mary Anne had whispered to him. He was asked to stand in a position as if he was about to be crucified for the remaining 45 minutes of the class, with Mary Anne aiding in the tormenting of her brother.

After the class, the siblings walked home together. Ben was mad at Mary Anne for what transpired during the class. After a round of teasing, their conversation turned serious— they both asked each other what they think will happen to them once they become adults. Ben asked his sister if she thinks if any of them will be able to write a book in the future. Mary Anne continued to taunt her brother about turning into a Marine pilot, something that he despised so much.

Notes: Amongst the Meecham children, Mary Anne is the one who seems the most detached. She takes pleasure in seeing her siblings suffer, especially Ben. She means well, but tends to go overboard—similar to her father.

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