Study Guide for Bleachers by John Grisham - BookNotes

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The Protagonist is Neely Crenshaw whose life has gone anywhere but where he hoped it would go. He had been the greatest quarterback in Messina history, but his glory days came to an end with a knee injury during his sophomore year at Tech. He had been struck by Coach Rake during halftime of the í87 championship game, and as a result, he hadnít returned to Messina in 15 years. He comes back for the vigil for Coach Rake, but he finds that the bleachers are the place where he can come to terms with his ambivalence about the Coach.


One antagonist is Coach Rake. His coaching style made him a legend, but some of his players come away somewhat scarred. He was the kind of man whom his players either loved or hated, and he definitely affected their lives in both good and bad ways. He is an integral part in making them men, but for Neely, he is someone he must come to terms with before he can continue to live his life.

A second antagonist is Neely himself. He hasnít become the person he had hoped to become and his memories are filled with the conflict with Coach Rake. In order to become a better person, he must accept how the coach influenced him and how that influence can help him change himself for the better.


The climax occurs when Neely Crenshaw appears as the third eulogist for Coach Eddie Rake. The reader doesnít expect him to be the one to speak well of his memories of his coach, because we have seen him turn away from Rake and Messina football so often throughout the book.


The outcome involves the catharsis that both Neely and the town of Messina experience as a result of the death of Eddie Rake. The split in the town over Rakeís firing is resolved through the eulogies of three of his players and the note that he himself leaves behind. They all learn to forgive and go on with their lives, knowing that he was a great man even though he was very human. He made mistakes, but by the time of his funeral, the mistakes have been accepted by all concerned, and the good times can be remembered. Neely then leaves Messina knowing that he can come back again and smile when Eddie Rakeís name is mentioned or even tell a story about him with a happy ending.


This novel is a brief narrative about a town and its high school football program. By focusing on a minimum of characters, the most important being Eddie Rake and Neely Crenshaw, the author presents the consequences when winning becomes everything to everyone. Neely and his former teammates return to Messina, their hometown, to sit vigil while their former coach, Eddie Rake lies dying. Using the technique of flashback, the author shows us the impact Eddie had on all his players and the town where they lived. However, it is especially his impact on Neely that is most emphasized. Neely had left the town 15 years before when he had an altercation with the coach during halftime of the í87 championship game. His subsequent career in football was ruined by a knee injury, his wife left him, and combined with his love-hate relationship with Rake, he has drifted through life a bitter man. Now with Rakeís death comes his chance to resolve all these conflicts.


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