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What is "The Great Santini" about?

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���The Great Santini,��� a best-selling 1976 novel by American author Pat Conroy, tells the story of a tough Marine fighter pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Wilber ���Bull��� Meecham, and his love-hate relationship with his son, Ben. The novel was made into the 1979 movie, ���The Great Santini,��� starring Robert Duvall and Blythe Danner.

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���The Great Santini��� explores the growth of the main character, Ben Meecham, and his efforts to win the love and acceptance of his strict father, who runs his family like a military unit, beats his wife and four children, and is impossible to please. The novel, which is set in South Carolina in 1962, also explores Ben Meecham���s friendships with an African-American farmer and a Jewish classmate.

The novel contrasts the title character���s success as a military pilot with his shortcomings as a father and husband, and explores the high price of heroism and self-sacrifice. In the book, Meecham commands a squadron of F-8 Crusaders while in the film the jets are F-4 Phantom IIs.

Conroy grew up in a military family and based the character ���Bull��� Meecham on his father, Donald Conroy. Donald Conroy nicknamed himself ���The Great Santini��� after bragging to his squadron that his aerial acrobatics were better than the famous trapeze artist he had seen as a child. In 2013, Pat Conroy wrote a memoir about his father, titled ���The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.���

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