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A Reader's Guide to: Pat Conroy's "The Great Santini", Plot, Characters, and Vocabulary
In this novel, "The Great Santini" we follow the life of a USMC Colonel and his family. The family dynamics involve the at times "twisted" relationship with the members of the Meechem family: the colonel, his wife, and his children. Much of the focus is on his 18 year old son's relationship with his father at that difficult age of reaching adulthood and independence. External relationships which are explored as well between his son and an African American farmer and a Jewish boy approximately his same age.
Along with the truly autobiographical work, "My Losing Season", published six years later in 2002, shows a very insightful look at the difficulties military famililies in trying to achieve a "normal" lifestyle.
accretion - something which has grown or collected slowly
amelorate - improve upon; to make better; make more bearable
anachronism - out of place or sequence especially not in time order; a chronological error
anthropomorphic - assigning human attributes or qualities to a non-human being or thing; resembling a human form
arrhythmic - lacking regularity; lacking in rhythm
aurignacian - relating to an ancient culture which was self-aware and sophisticated. Considered the "first modern man".
Bon Cousy - (1928- ) a retired American professional basketball player and coach.
bovine - of of pertaining to animals in the mammal subfamily Bovinae which includes cattle, buffalo, oxen.
concupiscent - desiring eagerly; lustful; sensual
Corsair - U.S. fighter plane used during World War II and the Korean conflict
desiccated - dehydrated; reduced to powder
dreck - (slang) - junk; trash; excement; dung; wothless matter
D.I. - drill instructor (as in the Marines), an NCO (non-commissioned officerin charge of new recruits
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efficacy - having the ability to bring about desired results; ability to make happen
equanimity - emotionally calm under stress or duress
ethereal - very delicate; light or airy
festooned - flowers, cloth, ribbon, foliage draped in a curve between two points
fungoes - In baseball, a batted ball, especially a fly ball. A ball flung in the air by the batter and hit (in game practice).
George Dickel - brand name for a Tennessee whiskey originall produced by George and Agusta Dickel (1870).
goldbricking - a person doing less work than he should. The origins are from disguising a worthless brick by painting it a gold color.
gyrene - (slang) a U.S. Marine. The word comes from combining GI with (Ma)rine.
horse latitudes - either of two latitudinal belts 30 degrees North or 30 degrees Sout of the Euqator. These areas are areas of calm and gentle breezes. Sailing ships could be "caught" in these bands are remain immobile for days.
Impala - A Chevrolet brand car produced by General Motors
inchoate - not totally formed or operational; formless; incherent; incipient
ineluctable - unavoidable; cannot be escaped from
ingenuousness - the quality of being straightforward; guileless; not cunning
Ipana - a brand of toothpaste introduced in the U.S. in 1901. Its popularity reached its high point in the 1950s. Its mascot (symbol) was the Disney character "Buckey Beaver". No longer distributed in the United States, it is a popular band in Turkey.
K. I. A. - killed in action, a casualty of hostile military action
Lavabo - a device for the washing of hands especially used in religious ceremony.
leitmotif -a short recurring musical phrase
libidinously - pertaining to the libido; lewd; lustful;
Lon Chaney - (1883-1930) an American silent film actor and director noted for his makeup and characterization particularly in horror films.
Mameluke sword - the official sword carried by U.S. Marine Corps officers. It was adopted during their 18th century North African campaigns.
Manolete - Manuel Laureano Rodríguez Sánchez (1917-1947) considered the greatest bullfighter of all time. Killed in a bullfight.
Marine Hymn - The official song of the U.S.Marine Corps. The Marines' Hymn is the oldest among the songs associated with the U.S. Armed Forces.
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.
mellifluous - having a rich, mellow flow; honey-like
November 10th - anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marine Corps in Philadelphia in 1775.
obsequious - overly eager to obey or to help
oligarchy - rule by an elite few
pallative - releaving pain without addressing the underlying problem, issue, or illness
peccadilos - a "small" sin; veneal act or fault
Presidio of San Francisco - a former Spanish and later American militrary fortress at the tip of the San Francisico, California penusula.
pugilist - one who fights; a boxer
purlieus - neighborhood or environs; designated area to range; an outlying area
Quantico - a major U.S. Marine Corps installation in northern Virginia. The marine base shares facilities there with the FBI Academy and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).
Ravenel - a small coastal town in southern South Carolina. Population as of the year 2000 was just over 2000.
sedulously - diligent; persistent; persevering
semper fidelis - (Latin) meaning "always faithful" or "always loyal"; the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps.
sonorous - producing a deep, rich sound
supernumerary - above the usual, prescribed, or proper number; in excess; additional; an extra
tattoo - a signal such as made by a drum, trumpet, or other instrument to inform soldiers of some required action; a strong puslation; a knocking or tapping
truculent - ready to fight; pugnacious
viscous - sticky; thick
vitriol - something with a caustic quality; corrosive
volubility - characterized as being talkative, glib, fluent
windsock - a large tube used to help pilots in landing by giving a sense of wind direction and relative speed.