The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy

Cover Picture
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Discussion Facilitator: TBD

Group Members:
Phoebe Walsh
Marshall Brunelle
Rachel Nixon
Julie Hutchinson

Discussion Location: library

Clarifying Questions:

Discussion plans:
You might ask everyone to share their first impressions, or a specific passage from the text, or assign everyone to a character to discuss. Don't plan every moment of the
discussion, but ideas to start or options to go when a discussions stalls can be very helpful

Main character, also the narrator. Attends the Carolina Military Institute due to a promise he made to his father on his deathbed. He is not known for his military skill or enthusiasm; however, he is a member of the honor court and is known to be somewhat of a mentor to the freshmen.

Will's best friend. He is from a wealthy, aristocratic Charleston family. He is ridiculed be the corps for being somewhat feminine. It is eventually revealed that he is a member of the elite secret society, The Ten, whose main activity is forcing "unfit" plebes out of the corps. Tradd is also the secret father of Annie Kate's child.

•Dante Pignetti (Pig)
A somewhat brutish character, Pig is another one of Will's roommates and close friends. He is very physically strong and excels militarily at The Institute. He is fiercely devoted to all of his roommates and goes to any length to protect them from any of the possible harm that threatens to befall them throughout the book. He is expelled from the Institute on an honor violation after he is caught siphoning gas from Will's car. After he is "drummed out" of the corps, he commits suicide by standing in front of a train.

Will's third roommate. While less physically strong than Pig, he is no less devoted to his roommates. He often protects Will from the wrath of Pig when they disagree. He helps will come to terms w/ Pig's suicide and is basically Will's only friend left at the end of the book when Will learns of Tradd's betrayal.

•Commerce and Abigail
Tradd's parents. Will is very close with both of them. Commerce appreciates Will's masculinity in comparison to Tradd. Commerce is a member of The Ten as well.

•Annie Kate
Will's love interest. She is supposedly from an aristocratic Charleston family. She is pregnant by an unknown man (Tradd) and she and Will develop a close relationship.

A Colonel at the school who has a strange but close friendship with Will. He acts as a sort of mentor to Will. He ends up helping Will graduate at the end of the book.

•General Durrell
A member of the secret society, The Ten, General Durrell is the head of the Institute. He is acclaimed by cadets and parents for his devotion to The Institute in addition to his powerful oratory skills. It is revealed that he is very corrupt and unfair.

The book takes place primarily in Carolina Military Institute in the era. of the Vietnam War. A heavy emphasis is placed on the beauty and power of the City of Charleston.

The book is narrated by Will in the 1st person. This is an interesting choice by Conroy because the reader gains much insight into Will's actions by learning what is inside his head, as a result of the first-person narration.

The conflict in this book has to do with the immense superiority in this Institute on all different levels. Throughout the first year at the South Carolina Military Institute, the incoming students undergo one of the toughest years of their lives, "the plebe year." The freshmen are brutally harassed, abused, beaten, and made emotionally unstable. The power and rule of the upperclassmen is used to its fullest potential by every senior. There also seems to be a conflict between Will and himself in this book. On one level, Will feels like the Institute is the best thing that ever happened to him while on another level, he seems to resent the atmosphere of "senseless" patriotism that surrounds the school. Will feels like he is different than the rest of the cadets at The Institute and that leads to some interesting dynamics between Will and other characters. There is also a conflict/struggle between the known and the unknown and what it takes to figure out what they need to know..


Style of Writing:
Conroy beautifully depicts the emotional travails of the cadets at SCMI, as they struggle with popular backlash against the Viet Nam War. Conroy really does a good job of demonstrating how so much of the resistance against these historic changes came not from hatred but rather from a desperate attempt to hold onto a tradition and a way of life in the South Carolinian culture of antiquity and state pride. He thoroughly describes the contemplation of what their lives have in store for both those who take their commissioning into the United States armed forces, as well as for those who opt to remain civilians upon graduating. Conroy so genuinely conveys the true sentiment of these young men who really faced this tough decision through his characters in this novel.

Significant Passages:

Outside Resources:
A movie trailer for The Lords of Discipline
The Institute is modeled after this real college

Discussion Questions:

Did you like the way Annie Kate treated Will?
The characters in the books come from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds, how is this reflected in their actions?
Should Will be at The Institute given his attitude towards war and his fluctuating opinion of The Institute?
What does Pig's suicide say about him as a character?

What are some common themes in the book?

Significant Parts
Do you think what Annie Kate did to Will after the baby was born was just?
Should pig and Mark had helped Will out when he was being chased after he found out about The Ten?
Did Pig deserve to lose at the honor court?
Should Will be on the honor court?
Should Will, Mark and Pig have kidnapped that man and tied him down on the railroad tracks?
Should Will had forgiven Tradd at the end?
Is there merit to ritual of the Taming?
Is the plebe system really effective given that it let Will through and caused Poteete to commit suicide?
Should The Ten be allowed to exist?