Study Guide for Bleachers by John Grisham - BookNotes

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The town of Messina, probably in the state of Mississippi in the present day, with flashbacks of football seasons in the sixties, seventies, and eighties.


Major Characters

Coach Eddie Rake
Although he never appears in the flesh in the story, he is definitely the main character. He is a legend in Messina, having coached the high school football team for 34 years and piling up tremendous statistics. He also was fired for inadvertently causing the death of a player because of his strict conditioning practices. He is in the process of dying of cancer, and his former players begin to return to Messina to reminisce about their coach and the glory days of Messina football.

Neely Crenshaw
He is the main character, and the author tells the story from his point of view. He had been the great football hero in the 1980’s and had a great future perhaps in professional football. Then, he received a career-ending knee injury as a sophomore in college and his great future disappeared. He has not returned to his hometown in 15 years because of his hatred for Coach Rake.

Paul Curry
Now a banker in Messina, Paul was also a great football hero with Neely. He had been Neely’s favorite receiver and best friend. They were also co-captains of the ’87 team.

Silo Mooney
He is the local owner of a body shop behind which he runs a chop shop for illegal parts. So far, he hasn’t been caught, but it seems only a matter of time. When he played football with Neely and Paul, he had been the most dominant player in Messina history. He was as wide as he was tall, and according to Neely, he owned the field. He was the player most cursed by Rake, but Mooney loved his coach nonetheless.

Nat Sawyer
The only gay player Rake had ever coached, he had returned to Messina to open a coffee shop/book shop. Coach was his first and most regular customer, which made the rest of the town accept his gayness and patronize his shop. He’s the one who brings the tape of the ’87 championship game to the bleachers for the other ex-players to hear.

Sheriff Mal Brown
He played on Rake’s team during The Streak and his jersey was the first to be retired. He warns Silo that he’s eventually going to bust him for his chop shop. He’s the one to relay the news of Rake’s death to all his ex-players. He also takes Neely and Paul to see Jesse Trapp to ask him to come to Rake’s funeral.

Minor Characters

A tall gangly man who had been hired as a teacher at Messina High School even though he had never gone beyond the ninth grade. Rake had saved him from losing his job by having him assigned as the assistant athletic director. He did all the maintenance work for the team and helped Rake, including providing the coach with all the gossip around the school. He turned on the field lights every night as a vigil for the coach as he was dying and would turn them off when he was dead.

Randy Jaeger
He is the player who holds the record for the number of laps completed in the Spartan Marathon - 83.

Scotty Reardon
He is the young man who collapsed and died in Rake’s arms while running the Spartan Marathon. His death led to Rake losing his job. Rake will later be buried beside him.

Cameron Lane
The girl whom Neely had loved and whose heart he broke in order to have an easy sexual relationship with Screamer. He has never forgotten her and visits her at her mother’s home to apologize for what he had done to her. He is able to get his guilt off his chest, but he leaves with her coldness following him. She will not forgive him as easily as he would have wanted.

Mike Hilliard and Collis Suggs
Two of the three players chosen by Coach Rake to give eulogies at his funeral, they speak highly of him and ask the town to bury the hatchet over his mistakes.

The young girl who had sex with every boy she could while in high school and aspired to be an actress. She also used her body to get noticed in Hollywood, but found herself working as a scantily clad waitress, looking ten years older than she was and completely worn out. She never actually appears in the story, but her presence is very much felt by Neely.


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