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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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Chapter 31 Summary

The next morning, news about the rape started spreading all over town. There was a public, yet silent, hostility towards colored people in the town because of what happened. Ben visited the Wertzberger household to look for Sam, to which his mother answered that they sent him away to protect him from angry townsfolk. She handed Ben a note from Sam. Ben read it and realized that Sam didnít want to leave, but he may have to come back to Ravenel for the trial.

At around five, Toomer entered Fogies General Store to deliver some goods. Red Pettus was mocking him, accusing him of being the rapist. Red broke four of the jars that Toomer was hoping to sell to Mr. Fogie. As he was leaving, Toomer grabbed Redís throat with one hand, and his testicles in the other. Toomerís rage was so intense that he drove Redís head on the tire of his wagon. Ed Mills stopped Toomer from doing anything else and sent Red home, telling the bully that he makes him sick.

Redís group came for Toomer at sunset. Toomer made sure that he gathered all dogs and secured them inside the bus, knowing that the Pettus boys will kill the dogs if any of them were released. Red was holding a .38 revolver, determined to retaliate for what Toomer did to him. Toomer yanked a rope, making the hives crash on the boys. The bees started attacking the boys, making them flee, but Red Pettus retrieved his .38 and walked towards Toomer.

Arrabelle called the Meecham household and was hysterical. She asked Ben to come get Toomer and tell him to stay at his motherís house for the mean time to protect him from the Pettus boys. Ben called their father to ask permission to pick Toomer up, to which Bull told him to stay out of. Mary Anne got mad at Ben for following their dadís orders to stay in the house and announced that sheíll be the one to pick Toomer up. Ben stopped her and decided to go instead. Bull called their household and asked Mary Anne if he could speak to Ben. She mocked their father and continued to waste his time instead. Apparently, Arrabelle called Bull and told him about Toomer. Bull was calling their house to make sure that Ben was staying in. Mary Anne only annoyed her father further and mocked him for being scared.


Bull gave Hedgepath a call and told him about whatís happening with Ben and wants him to cover for himó because for the first time in history, Bull Meecham was deserting his post.

Red returned to bus slowly, the dogs making a racket as Toomer tried to have a feel of what Redís next move is going to be. Red fired at one of the dogs, killing it immediately. Red then aimed the gun at the big Gray, but Toomer took the bullet for the dog instead, hitting him square in the stomach. Before falling on the floor, Toomer was able to open the door of the bus to release the dogs, sending the pack running towards Red. The dogs started attacking Red, ripping his flesh off of the person that hurt their caretaker.

Ben reached the area and saw Redís corpse on the field, only distinguishable because of his red hair. The Gray attacked Ben, ripping off a sleeve of the flight jackett. Ben returned inside his car and drove to the bus to check on Toomer. He saw Toomer on the floor and assured him that heís going to get better as soon as they see a doctor. Once he was able to drag Toomer to the car, he realized that the boy was already dead. He drove back to their house, his head filling with memories he had with Toomer. He was met by his father who hit him in the face with a slap. Bull asked him why he disobeyed his orders. Ben retaliated that if it was Bull who were in his shoes, he would have done the same thing.

Notes: Toomer defending himself got him into trouble with Red Pettusí gang. As mentioned in a previous chapter, Bull unconsciously instilled the drive to help others out to his children, hence Benís urgency when it comes to helping out Toomer until his last breath.



Chapter 32 Summary


Bull went to the annual Marine Mess Night, a gathering that is exclusively for men only. He promised Lillian that he wonít drink much, but Lillian knew better. As President of the Mess Night, Bull ensured that all traditions will be upheld and that only the best food and drinks will be served. He had invited 6 men who he admired for their bravery as Marines, he was the only one who knew that these people were invited.ó because they were the epitome of how the old Marines were. After a whole night of debauchery, Bull arrived home at 4 in the morning. They could hear their parents fighting, all of them except for Ben coming down to aid their mother. Once he heard that his father was physically attacking their mother, he ran down the stairs to find Bull holding Lillian by the throat. He tackled his father but he was too strong for Benó Bull grabbed Ben by the throat and slammed his skull on the wall. Lillian and the other kids started attacking Bull to let go of Ben. Bull stopped and looked stunned. He ran out of the house, leaving his family on the kitchen floor, weeping.

As he was preparing to go to bed, Ben was ordered by Lillian to go look for Bull despite his objections. He found his father passed out. As angry as he was, Ben still felt emotions for his father and told the old man that he loved him, something that Bull fled away from drunkenly. Being drunk, he was unable to run away from Ben, who was successful in taking him home.

Notes: Bullís temper reached its climax at this point, hurting Lillian and the kids in the process. Ben revealed his feelings for his father even thought he was mean to them throughout the years.

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