Lords Of Discipline By Pat Conroy Essay

, Research Paper

The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy ?I wear the ring and return often to the

city of Charleston, South Carolina, to study the history of my becoming a

man?, (Conroy, 1). The Lords of Discipline is essentially the story of Will

McLean growing up and learning what it really means to be an honorable man. He

began the book as one person: a young, naive cadet in his senior year who used

humor to keep everyone from seeing how troubled he was. The book ends with Will

as a wholly different person due to catastrophic events that happened during the

course of his final year at the Carolina Military Institute. Will endured the

?plebe year? at the Institute, he fell in love with a pregnant girl,

uncovered a well-hidden misuse of power in the Institute and because of that

discovery, suffered the death of a close friend and the loss of many other

people he thought he could trust. All these events contribute in different ways

to Will becoming an honorable man. Will enrolled in the Institute because his

father, on his deathbed, made him promise to graduate from the Institute, just

as he had. He went on a basketball scholarship, unaware of the brutal initiation

required for all freshman. Within the first minute of him arriving at

registration, he was beaten and humiliated by upperclassmen. Then, he and the

rest of his class were subjected to physical and mental torture whenever and

wherever possible. They were afraid to use the bathroom, so they used the sinks

in their rooms. The ?plebes? , as the freshmen were called, also had

?sweat parties? every night. All the doors in the room were locked and the

heater was turned on. Then everyone lined up and followed the commands of the

?cadre?, upperclassmen. ?My body took asylum in a mental and physical

paralysis,? (p. 147). The idea of the hazing was to separate the strong and

capable cadets from the flimsy and weak. If a cadet whom was thought to be

unworthy survived the hazing, they were treated to ?The Taming?. The cadre

would find the weakness of the plebe and exploit it. If they were afraid of

bugs, the cadre would cover the plebes body with insects until he agreed to

leave the Institute. One boy, Bobby Bentley had managed to survive all the

cadres had put him through. They picked on him because he wet his pants. All his

classmate were rooting for him and helped him whenever he was being picked on.

The angered the cadre more than anything. Then, all of a sudden, Bobby

disappeared. All his belongings were packed. He vanished from the Institute. In

the midst of all the turmoil around him, Will managed to survive, and even make

some friends. Dante Pignetti, a poor, muscled Italian from New York, Mark

Santoro, a loyal Yankee, and Tradd St. Croix, a wealthy Charleston aristocrat

following in the footsteps of his father became his roommates. These four would

form bonds that lasted all four years they attended the institute. Mark and

?Pig? were the defenders for Tradd and Will. Tradd was teased for being

effeminate and called ?the honey prince?. Will got in trouble for his sharp

tongue and unwavering loyalty to the Honor Code of the school. The four of them

made it to the end of the school year. There was twenty-eight in their class.

Thirty-two had dropped out along the way. There was a picnic to celebrate the

end of the year and the survival of the twenty-eight. The upperclassmen were

there. Will vows ?I will not be like them. I shall bear witness against

them? (p. 206). He sensed something sinister and immoral under the surface,

and decided he would we the one to uncover it. The torture he endured in the

plebe year made him mentally and physically stronger. It also made him want to

be all the more honorable than those around him. The book jumps ahead to

Will?s senior year. It was time for him to participate in the torture of the

plebes. He showed little interest and tried to save who ever he could from being

overwhelmed by the cadre. He saw a fat kid name Poteete being singled out for

stronger punishment. Poteete cried whenever faced with the cadre. He refused to

quit the school, another southerner being forced to follow in their fathers

footsteps. A few days after meeting Will, he attempts to commit suicide. They

find him hanging precariously over the railing overlooking the courtyard. While

trying to talk him down, Poteete mentions something that catches Will?s

attention. ?I thought I could make it. I thought I was doing better until they

took me to the house? (p. 117). It sounded like another of the clues that were

steadily adding to Will?s suspicion of the integrity of the school. Mark and

Pig forced Poteete to get off of the railing. He was sent to the infirmary where

he hung himself with his belt. He could not face the disgrace of quitting. He

would rather die. During that same time, Will met a young pregnant girl. Her

name was Annie Kate. She was one of the Southern aristocrats like Tradd. She

only lowered herself to be friends with Will because she was banished from the

rest of society. Her mother hid her from everyone to avoid the scandal of an

unwed pregnant girl. The family pretended she was in California and hid her away

at their beach home. Will visited her, wrote her, and called her whenever

possible, falling in love with her in the process. She was the first girl he had

ever loved. In the incoming plebe class there was a black student, the first in

the history of the Institute. No one wanted him there. Will was specially

assigned to keep him safe. They developed a secret system of communication,

leaving notes in a designated book in the library. Pearce, the black cadet, and

Will?s roommates are the only ones to know about the system. While Will was at

a party at Tradd?s house, Annie Kate called and said she was having the baby.

He rushed over to her house and took her to the hospital. Her mother was

passed-out drunk on the couch. At the hospital, everyone treated will like the

father, and he loved it. Then he found out that the baby was born dead, the

umbilical cord had strangled it. Annie Kate never tried to contact Will after

that, and he was unable to see her for weeks. When he finally saw her, she

treated him as an impersonal neighbor. He begged for her to recognize his love

but she refused, and left for California the next day. The rejection and hurt

made Will mourn for weeks. When he finally recovered he was stronger and wiser

that he had been before. He would always love her, but he knew he would find

another. Will met with Colonel Reynolds, an English teacher from the Institute

to discuss his suspicions about the bad things going on at his school. Reynolds

confirmed his worries with stories about a secret group within the school called

?The Ten?. Reynolds had written about it in his history of the Institute,

but the section about The Ten magically disappeared when it reached the

printers. Will decided to contact Bobby Bentley to see if he could add anything

to the story. Bobby told Will about being taken to a house and abused beyond the

reaches of humanity. The Ten poured gas on him and tossed matches dangerously

close. They made him faint and revived him by throwing buckets of water in his

face. It didn?t end until he agreed to leave the Institute immediately. He was

able to give them the name of one of the men that had done it to him, Dan

Molligen. Mark, Pig, and Will found Molligen and kidnapped him to find out more

information about The Ten. They laid him on a set of deserted railroad tracks

that ran parallel to working tracks. They left him there until he gave up the

information they needed. He told them that the house the torture took place in

belonged to General Durell, President of the Institute. When they returned to

the school, they found out that Pearce had been taken from the school. Will

decided to go to the house to find out what was going on. When he arrived there,

he found s basement window to look in. There were ten masked men standing around

Pearce, who was tied to a chair. He was being electrocuted. Will recognized a

few of the ten torturers. While he was watching, the phone rang. The men, after

listening to the person, went directly to the window Will was at. He ran away,

and came back and broke the window. They gave chase down the beach. Pig and Mark

appeared and fought the guys off. The next day at school Will was approached by

Cain, a representative of the Ten. He was threatened, as was his roommates. The

Ten did nothing for a few months. Then, Pig was caught trying to steal gas from

Will?s car. He was put on trial and convicted of being dishonorable and was

kicked out of school. He had to go down ?The Walk of Shame?, where all the

cadets turn their backs on him as he passes. After going down the walk, he went

directly in front of a train, for all the cadets to see. It broke Will?s

heart. Then, he knew The Ten were serious about getting him quiet. Will and Mark

became the subject of attention for all the commanding officers. Their room was

searched randomly and they were given huge numbers of demerits. A senior was

allowed 100 demerits and they accumulated over 100 within weeks. They too were

kicked out of school. Will broke into Tradd?s house to see if his dad,

Commerce, a graduate of the Institute, knew anything about The Ten in his

journals. He found lists of people in The Ten, including Tradd?s father, Gen.

Durell, and Tradd himself. He also found out that Tradd was the father of Annie

Kate?s baby, and that he had shunned her and put her to shame. He used the

information about The Ten to blackmail General Durell. He and Mark were allowed

to graduate with their class. He promised to write an accurate history of the

school. He also confronted Tradd about being a member of The Ten. He lost two of

his best friends with in months of each other, on the victim of another. Will

always did whatever he could to be and honest and honorable cadet. Even though

he detested the Institute, he remained there to follow through with the promise

he made to his father. In The Lords of Discipline we see Will go from a shy

plebe, to an admirable graduate. It cost him his friends, his love, and almost

his education, but Will was finally a man.


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