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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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The novel focused on the lives of the members of the Meecham family, mainly Bull and his eldest son Ben. It showed how his wife Lillian tried her best to be the glue that keeps the family together despite Bull being a difficult person to handle. Bullís death at the end of the story showed how Lillian maintained her grace while under great stress in order to keep her family intact.

Authority and Order

Bullís status in the Marines gave him great reason to show his dominance by ordering his family around. Home life with Bull can be compared to how cadets are treated while in military camps, something that Bull is very familiar with.

Sexual Curiosity

Ben, being a teenage boy, is vulnerable to sexual desires. Sammy Wertzberger constant plans on getting him and Ben dates exploited this theme so much, that it led to the rape of Samís girlfriend.


The setting of the story was during a time when civil rights laws were still in their infancy. People were still narrow-minded and avoided anyone of color due to the fact that they are almost always accused of committing crimes. The death of Toomer Smalls was a result of the simple-mindedness of those who immediately think of the black people as the devil for defending themselves.

Essay Prompts

1. Do you think Bull deserves to be called the ďGreat SantiniĒ? Explain.

2. Lillian and Bull have different approaches towards parenting. How do you think it affects the childrenís psyche?

3. If the book was set during the present time and society, do you think the same events would still happen without anyone batting an eyelash? Justify.

4. The Marine Corps are full of men who are emotionless. Defend your answer.

5. How does Bullís death affect the future of the children, specially the youngest ones? How do you think Lillian would cope?

Study Questions

1. What does Bull use to address his family?

a) sportsfans
b) sports casters
c) spectators
d) big fans

2. What kind of soup did Bull use to fake his vomiting?

a) onion soup
b) chicken noodle soup
c) mushroom soup
d) corn soup

3. Whatís the name of the girl that Bull set up a date with for Ben?

a) Ashley
b) Ansley
c) Anna Lee
d) Arrabelle

4. What state was Ben born in?

a) Wisconsin
b) Tennessee
c) Oklahoma
d) Georgia

5. What was Bull's gift for Ben on his 18th birthday?

a) flight jacket
b) flight manual
c) flight ticket
d) flight tour

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