What are some songs that relate to the themes in The Great Santini?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There will be some strong examples of songs that can represent the destructive elements of Conroy's work and then some songs that pivot to represent the opposite of the themes in Conroy's work.  Consider it, the musical "Santini" and the "Anti- Santini."  Johnny Cash's song, "A Boy Named Sue" is something that would fit in very well with Bull Meecham's approach to raising children:

So I give you that name and I said good-bye, and I knew you’d have to get tough or die…

The need for "toughness" and the almost zealotry military appeal of the lyrics represents how Bull looks at raising children.  One can almost hear this in the background of the father/ son basketball game.  I think that the need to have a son love his father is another theme in the novel, and this can be heard in the song, "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."  The Temptations, aided by an amazing background score, were able to bring out the complexity and pain that a son feels when they must wrestle with the reality that the love of a father is juxtaposed to the pain caused by the relationship.  This is something that Conroy brings out in his novel and that the song evokes in its plot.  I would submit that Harry Chapin's "Cat's In the Cradle" is an example of the anti- Conroy construction of father/ son relationships.  In the song, there is an acknowledgement of the pain caused in such a configuration and almost an emotional maturation and acceptance of such a reality.  Conroy's protagonist and the themes that emerge from the novel would never acquiesce to this notion.


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