The Lords of Discipline

The Lords of Discipline

4.5 123
by Pat Conroy, Dan John Miller

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This powerful and breathtaking novel is the story of four cadets who have become bloodbrothers. Together they will encounter the hell of hazing and the rabid, raunchy and dangerously secretive atmosphere of an arrogant and proud military institute. They will experience the violence. The passion. The rage. The friendship. The loyalty. The betrayal. Together, they will…  See more details below


This powerful and breathtaking novel is the story of four cadets who have become bloodbrothers. Together they will encounter the hell of hazing and the rabid, raunchy and dangerously secretive atmosphere of an arrogant and proud military institute. They will experience the violence. The passion. The rage. The friendship. The loyalty. The betrayal. Together, they will brace themselves for the brutal transition to manhood... and one will not survive.

With all the dramatic brilliance he brought to The Great Santini, Pat Conroy sweeps you into the turbulent world of these four friends - and draws you deep into the heart of his rebellious hero, Will McLean, an outsider forging his personal code of honor, who falls in love with a whimsical beauty... and who undergoes a transition more remarkable then he ever imagined possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Conroy's tale of military college secrets reaches its 30th anniversary, Dan John Miller brings a new audio edition to life with passion and attention to detail, and the author himself offers an insightful introduction. Miller brings complexity and nuance to his portrayal of the mysterious St. Croix family, the old-money Charleston blue bloods who provide a home away from home for protagonist Will McLean. Miller recreates the mix of Lowcountry and upstate Carolina dialects on campus and also skillfully adds the voices of Will's Italian-American roommates Dante "Pig" Pignetti and Mark Santoro into the mix. The hazing sessions, where a vicious secret society of cadets use multiple forms of torture to preserve the racial purity of their school, have never sounded more harrowing, nor has the author's point--that there is exists a very dark side to obedience--been clearer. A Dial paperback. (May)
From the Publisher
“If you are reading another book when you begin The Lords of Discipline, prepare to set it aside.”—The Denver Post

“Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.”—Houston Chronicle

The Lords Of Discipline is, simply, an American classic.”—Larry King

“A work of enormous power, passion, humor, and wisdom [that] sweeps the reader along on a great tide of honest, throbbing emotion.”—The Washington Star

“Few novelists write as well, and none as beautifully.”—Lexington Herald-Leader

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
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6.60(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When I crossed the Ashley River my senior year in my gray 1959 Chevrolet, I was returning with confidence and even joy. I'm a senior now, I thought, looking to my right and seeing the restrained chaste skyline of Charleston again. The gentleness and purity of that skyline had always pleased me. A fleet of small sailboats struggled toward a buoy in the windless river, trapped like pale months in the clear amber of late afternoon.

Then I looked to my left and saw, upriver, the white battlements and parapets of Carolina Military Institute, as stolid and immovable in reality as in memory. The view to the left no longer caused me to shudder involuntarily as it had the first year. No longer was I returning to the cold, inimical eyes of the cadre. Now the cold eyes were mine and those of my classmates, and I felt only the approaching freedom that would come when I graduated in June. After a long childhood with an unbenign father and four years at the Institute, I was looking forward to that day of release when I would no longer be subject to the fixed, irresistible tenets of martial law, that hour when I would be presented with my discharge papers and could walk without cadences for the first time.

I was returning early with the training cadre in the third week of August. It was 1966, the war in Vietnam was gradually escalating, and Charleston had never looked so beautiful, so untouchable, or so completely mine. Yet there was an oddity about my presence on campus at this early date. I would be the only cadet private in the barracks during that week when the cadre would prepare to train the incoming freshmen. The cadre was composed of the highest-rankingcadet officers and non-coms in the corps of cadets. To them fell the serious responsibility of teaching the freshmen the cheerless rudiments of the fourth-class system during plebe week. The cadre was a diminutive regiment of the elite, chosen for their leadership, their military sharpness, their devotion to duty, their ambition, and their unquestioning, uncomplicated belief in the system.

I had not done well militarily at the Institute. As an embodiment of conscious slovenliness, I had been a private for four consecutive years, and my classmates, demonstrating remarkable powers of discrimination, had consistently placed me near the bottom of my class. I was barely cadet material, and no one, including me, ever considered the possibility of my inclusion on the cadre.

But in my junior year, the cadets of fourth battalion had surprised both me and the Commandant's Department by selecting me as a member of the honor court, a tribunal of twenty-one cadets known for their integrity, sobriety, and honesty. I may not have worn a uniform well, but I was chock full of all that other stuff. It was the grim, excruciating duty of the honor court to judge the guilt or innocence of their peers accused of lying, stealing, cheating, or of tolerating those who did. Those found guilty of an honor violation were drummed out of the Corps in a dark ceremony of expatriation that had a remorseless medieval splendor about it.

Once I had seen my first drumming-out, it removed any temptation I might have had to challenge the laws of the honor code. The members of the court further complicated my life by selecting me as its vice chairman, a singularly indecipherable act that caused me a great deal of consternation, since I did not even understand my election to that cold jury whose specialty was the killing off of a boy's college career. By a process of unnatural selection, I had become one of those who could summon the Corps and that fearful squad of drummers for the ceremony of exile. Since I was vice chairman of the court, the Commandant's Department had ordered me to report two weeks before the arrival of the regular Corps.

In my senior year, irony had once again gained a foothold in my life, and I was a member of the training cadre. Traditionally, the chairman and vice chairman explained the rules and nuances of the honor system to the regiment's newest recruits. Traditionally, the vice chairman had always been a cadet officer, but even at the Institute tradition could not always be served. Both tradition and irony have their own system of circulation, their own sense of mystery and surprise.

I did not mind coming back for cadre. Since my only job was to introduce the freshmen to the pitfalls and intricacies of honor, I was going to provide the freshmen with their link to the family of man. Piety comes easily to me. I planned to make them laugh during the hour they were marched into my presence, to crack a few jokes, tell them about my own plebe year, let them relax, and if any of them wanted to, catch up on the sleep they were missing in the barracks. The residue of that long, sanctioned nightmare was still with me, and I wanted to tell these freshmen truthfully that no matter how much time had elapsed since that first day at the Institute, the one truth the system had taught me was this: A part of me would always be a plebe.

I pulled my car through the Gates of Legrand and waited for the sergeant of the guard to wave me through. He was conferring with the Cadet Officer of the Guard, who looked up and recognized me.

"McLean, you load," Cain Gilbreath said, his eighteen-inch neck protruding from his gray cotton uniform shirt.

"Excuse me, sir," I said, "but aren't you a full-fledged Institute man? My, but you're a handsome, stalwart fellow. My country will always be safe with men such as you."

Cain walked up to my car, put his gloved hand against the car, and said, "There was a rumor you'd been killed in an auto wreck. The whole campus is celebrating. How was your summer, Will?"

"Fine, Cain. How'd you pull guard duty so early?"

"Just lucky. Do you have religious beliefs against washing this car?" he asked, withdrawing his white glove from the hood. "By the way, the Bear's looking for you."

"What for?"

"I think he wants to make you regimental commander. How in the hell would I know? What do you think about the big news?"

"What big news?"

"The nigger."

"That's old news, and you know what I think about it."

"Let's have a debate."

"Not now, Cain," I said, "but let's go out for a beer later on in the week."

"I'm a varsity football player," he said with a grin, his blue eyes flashing. "I'm not allowed to drink during the season."

"How about next Thursday?"

"Fine. Good to see you, Will. I've missed trading insults with you." I drove the car through the Gates of Legrand for my fourth and final year. I realized that the Institute was now a part of my identity. I was nine months away from being a native of this land.

Before I unloaded my luggage in the barracks, I took a leisurely ride down the Avenue of Remembrance, which ran past the library, the chapel, and Durrell Hall on the west side of the parade ground. The Avenue was named in honor of the epigram from Ecclesiastes that appeared above the chapel door: "Remember Now Thy Creator in the Days of Thy Youth." When I first saw the unadorned architecture of the Institute, I thought it was unbelievedly ugly. But it had slowly grown on me.

The beauty of the campus, an acquired taste, certainly, lay in its stalwart understatement, its unapologetic capitulation to the supremacy of line over color, to the artistry of repetition, and the lyrics of a scrupulous unsentimental vision. The four barracks and all the main academic buildings on campus faced inward toward the parade ground, a vast luxurious greensward trimmed like the fairway of an exclusive golf course. The perfume of freshly mown grass hung over the campus throughout much of the year. Instruments of war decorated the four corners of the parade ground: a Sherman tank, a Marine landing craft, a Jupiter missile, and an Air Force Sabre jet. Significantly, all of these pretty decorations were obsolete and anachronistic when placed in reverent perpetuity on campus. The campus looked as though a squad of thin, humorless colonels had designed it. At the Institute, there was no ostentation of curve, no vagueness of definition, no blurring of order. There was a perfect, almost heartbreaking, congruence to its furious orthodoxy. To an unromantic eye, the Institute had the look of a Spanish prison or a fortress beleaguered not by an invading force but by the more threatening anarchy of the twentieth century buzzing insensately outside the Gates of Legrand.

It always struck me as odd that the Institute was one of the leading tourist attractions in Charleston. Every Friday afternoon, the two thousand members of the Corps of Cadets would march in a full-dress parade for the edification of both the tourists and the natives. There was always something imponderably beautiful in the anachronism, in the synchronization of the regiment, in the flashing gold passage of the Corps past the reviewing stand in a ceremony that was a direct throwback to the times when Napoleonic troops strutted for their emperor.

Ever since the school had been founded in 1842, after a slave insurrection, the Corps had marched on Fridays in Charleston, except on the Friday following that celebrated moment when cadets from the Institute had opened fire on the Star of the East, a Northern supply ship trying to deliver supplies to the beleaguered garrison at Fort Sumter. Historians credited those cadets with the first shots in the War Between the States. It was the proudest moment in the history of the school, endlessly appreciated and extolled as the definitive existential moment in its past. Patriotism was an alexin of the blood at the Institute, and we, her sons, would march singing and eager into every battle with the name of the Institute on our lips. There was something lyric and terrible in the fey mindlessness of Southern boys, something dreary and exquisite in the barbaric innocence of all things military in the South. The Institute, romantic and bizarre, was the city of Charleston's shrine to Southern masculinity. It was one of the last state-supported military schools in America, and the boys who formed her ranks were the last of a breed. I had always liked the sound of that: McLean, last of a breed.

I pulled my car up to the front of Number Four barracks. In my loafers, Bermuda shorts, and a T-shirt, I savored my last moments out of uniform. I was lifting my luggage out of the trunk when I was frozen into absolute stillness by the roar of a powerful voice behind me.

"Halt, Bubba."

I had jumped when he let loose with his scream. I always jumped when he yelled at me. He knew it and enjoyed the fact immensely. I did not turn around to face him but merely stood at attention beside my car.

"Good afternoon, Colonel," I said to Colonel Thomas Berrineau, the Commandant of Cadets.

"How did you know it was me, Bubba?" he asked, coming into my field of vision.

"I'd recognize that high-pitched castrato voice anywhere, Colonel. How was your summer, sir?"

"My summer was fine, Bubba. I could relax. You weren't on campus. I didn't have to worry about my niece's virtue or plots against the Institute. Where did you spend your summer, McLean? The Kremlin? Peking? Hanoi?"

"I stayed home knitting mufflers for our boys in Vietnam, Colonel," I said. "It was the least I could do."

"You son of a Bolshevik," he whispered softly as he drew his face nearer to mine. A cigar hung from his pendulous lower lip, and its ash glowed brightly inches away from my right cornea. I had never seen the Bear without a cigar in his mouth. I could more easily have imagined him without a nose or ears. You could often smell his approach before you saw him. Your nose would warn you of the Bear's quiet scrutiny before he unleashed that voice so famous among cadets.

"McLean, I bet you were plotting the overthrow of this country, the assassination of all the members of the Senate and the House, and the imprisonment of all military officers."

"You're absolutely right, Colonel. I was lying. I spent a jolly summer in the Kremlin studying germ warfare with Doctor Zhivago. But one thing you got wrong. I would have nothing to do with the imprisonment of all military officers. I voted to line them all up against the wall and let them have it with Yugoslav-made flame throwers."

"Who would be the first American officer to meet such a fate, lamb?" the Bear asked rhetorically. The cigar ash was on the move toward the eye again.

"Why, the most fierce fighting man in the history of the United States Army, sir. The man with the soul of a lion, the heart of a dinosaur, the brain of a paramecium, and the sexual organs of a Girl Scout. The first to be executed would be you, sir."

"You god-blessed fellow traveler Leninist," he roared, smiling. "I've got one more year to make a man out of you, McLean."

"In June, I'll be a full-fledged alumnus, Colonel. A bona fide, dyed-in-the-wool, legitimate Institute man. How does that make you feel?"

"Ashamed, Bubba. Sick to my stomach. You've got to give me one good shot at getting you kicked out of here. Promise to do something, lamb, anything. We have an international reputation, and you could be the undoing of a hundred years of pride and tradition."

"I'll make the school proud, Colonel," I said, backing away from him slightly. "I'm going to have an operation and have the ring surgically implanted in my nose."

The Bear threw his head back and bellowed out a laugh. He had an extravagant, pulpy nose, stiff, white-thatched hair, sad but cunning brown eyes the color of his cigars, and a great shovel of a mouth with dark uneven teeth that looked as though he could strip-mine a valley or graze in a field of quartz.

"It's good to see you back, Bubba. Good to see you and all the lambs. This place doesn't seem natural when the Corps is gone for the summer. But I need to see you sometime tomorrow and it'll be serious, no pootin' around like we're doing today. Meet me at Henry's down on Market Street at 1200 manana. That's espanol, McLean, and it means the day after today."

"A man at home in many languages, Colonel. You should try English."

"Like you little girls down in the English Department. Tell me the truth, Bubba, is it really true what they say about English majors in the Corps? And this is confidential. I wouldn't breathe a word of it to higher authorities."

From the Paperback edition.

Copyright 2002 by Pat Conroy

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The Lords of Discipline (Enhanced Edition) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
janeomay More than 1 year ago
I am 54 years old and in 2 Book Clubs so I have done my share of reading. I read this book about 10 years ago and I have never read a better one. I agree with so many reviewers that this book consumed me. The characters in this book stayed with me for a very long time. This is true storytelling at its best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 38 years old and this remians the best book I have ever read. I reccomentd it to anyone that asks me for a book you 'can't put down.' After reading it I was inspired to read every book Pat Conroy has ever written and he became my favorite author.
BestBookReviewWriterEver More than 1 year ago
Pat Conroy put together an incredibly well written novel about the search for the true meaning of honor and integerty. Honor is something that can be absolutely different in every single person on this earth; it is not a word that can be defined simply by a dictionary definition. Conroy displays just that in this splendid page turner. He creates a protagonist (WIll McLean) that has to make several tough decisions throughout his college career. Many readers will be able to relate to the situations he was put through. He also is very creative with certain characters. For example, he builds the lovely lady, named Abigail St. Croix, up. Readers will think she is marvelous and can do no wrong, but that is a brutal mistake. The last few pages show the real Abigail and how she has hurt Mclean terribly. Conroy strives to make all the characters within this fantastic novel very relatable. "Lords of Discipline" most definitely deserves some type of literary significane. The only reason the book does not recieve five stars is beacsue the beginning is kind of slow. It takes a while for the book to take off, and this is only beacsue Conroy is intently describing the main characters and setting up the plot with a respective amount of detail. The book is a page turner not just for myself but for anybody. It has a little bit of everything. It has romance, action, suspense, history, and mystery. The theme is very impactful as well. The theme is like what I said earlier - Honor is not just a dictionary definition, but something that you must dig down deep within yourself to find. The coolest thing of all is that honor is different within everyone that walks this earth. That is what McLean discovers throughout his journey, and that is what you will discover too. Do not miss out on a spectacular read that will have your eyes glued to the text for days.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I finished this book a few days ago, and just can't get it out of my head. The characters were so real, and the story line was incredible. I learned a lot about military academies that I almost wish I didn't know, but of course education is always a good thing. Mr. Conroy's description of the dolphins in the water and the sunset that followed were written so beautifully, I read those parts a second time aloud to get the full effect. I loved this book!
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
) A frequent Audie finalist and Earphones award winner Dan John Miller delivers a riveting narration of the book many have called an American classic. Also a film actor and songwriter Miller gives eloquent voice to protagonist Will McLean who attends the South Carolina Military Institute, which is a fictional military school and said to be inspired by Conroy's personal experiences at The Citadel. Not only is THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE extremely well performed but a new introduction read by Pat Conroy is included in this edition. As compelling today as it was when it was first penned in 1980 this is the story of four young men, cadets at the Institute who have become blood brothers. Despite hazing, threats, mental duress, and violence Will McLean has reached his senior year. He has met and fallen in love with a beautiful young woman. Yet despite the challenges he has faced and the changes in his life Will remains very much his own person with a code of honor developed in his own mind and heart. However, when the first black enters the Institute and Will is instructed to look after him Will discovers even more than he had ever imagined exists not only at the Institute but in Charleston. With THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE Conroy, who also authored The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, wrote a brilliant scenario, a vivid commentary, true and bold. This is a book that stands tall in the annals of American literature. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
Jessie Hanus More than 1 year ago
He never disappoints! This book, as all of his books are, just amazing, heart-wrenching and always with an added twist of humor! My favorite all time book is Pat Conroy's "Beach Music". I stumbled upon this book while back-packing in the Swiss Alps, I found myself looking down at the book more than keeping my head high to see the mountains.......enough said! Give me MORE Mr. Conroy!!!!
Marco Tassone More than 1 year ago
this is an amazing book! at first i thought it was gonna be just another boring summer reading book for school, but boy was i wrong! pat conroy does an amazing job capturing and keeping his reader's attention with everything from sex to death to racism. suspense builds throughout and follows through the an ultimate twist at the end. i HIGHLY recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book whose characters will stay with you long after you put the book down. Conroy's style may be a bit fluffy in some portions of the book, but his coming of age themes will certainly hit home with most readers. One of the dominant themes of the book, and my favorite, was the power of true friendship and the benefits that flow from it, but the crushing effect of friendship lost or betrayed. Just read it.
OntheRocks More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is about the Citidel! Great read. Best of Conroys' books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read a lot. I don't even know how many books I have read. The Lords of Discipline is one of the best books I've ever read. I cannot get over how much I connected with this book. I usually do not read military style books but I could not put this down. Thank you Mr. Conroy for a great story that I will not forget, I rarely read a book twice but this one I will read again!
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Octlow More than 1 year ago
Becoming a Whole Man, Institute Man and a person who can proclaim “I wear the Ring”, is the purpose of Carolina Military Institute (The Citadel). To make men from boys is the goal, but the cost of one’s integrity, honor and love lost or an aberration of what it once was, is the result. Will McLean student plebe, star basketball player and advocate for the underdog lives thru 4 years of becoming a man in a military college. McLean has 3 roommates that grow together not only in personal depth and development, but grow together as dependable and enjoyable friends. Conroy’s ability to convey thru words the emotions, efforts and rewards of developing relationships is amazing. He effortlessly writes the reader through experiencing the feelings, joy, love and pain of each of his characters. Also through the setting of Charleston, SC the author allows you to experience the seasons, the town, the South both at its best and the worse. This was not only a good read for me; it is a great read for anyone. This was the first of Conroy’s books I have read, but assuredly there will be many more, starting next with The Great Santini. Savor the language, highlight the lines that touch your heart, and enjoy the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy is the first military book I’ve ever read, and I was very impressed. I was not only impressed by Conroy’s writing style, but by how well he portrays military school and what the cadets go through on a daily basis. The main character, Will McLean attended the Carolina Military Institute in Charleston, SC. At the opening of the book, Will is entering his senior year at the Institute. Pat Conroy tells the story of a military college senior’s freshman year and the challenges he faces in his final months of his senior year. Conroy’s work is so good because he uses his own experiences in military college to help develop this book. He attended the Citadel Military Academy in South Carolina, under his father’s insistence. We learn that Will McLean was attending the Carolina Military Institute for the same reasons. When his father was dying, he had asked Will to follow in his footsteps and go to the Institute just like him. Will is an English major at the Institute along with his roommate Tradd St. Croix. Pat Conroy was also an English major when he attended the Citadel and later became an English teacher. Conroy growing up was a big fan of basketball and found it as an outlet for his stress. He started playing basketball when he was in 5th grade. His character Will McLean played basketball for the Institute, to Will basketball was the only thing in the world that he could do and be free to play how he wanted and control a game if he needed to.   Conroy’s opinion of the military is kind of scarred due to his father and his experience at the Citadel. So in his writing he places his opinions about the military and the Institute into Will and projects them to his readers throughout the whole novel. The personal experiences like his plebe year and the rest of his college years at the Institute that are placed into this novel by Pat Conroy are what makes this book so great. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is painfully wonderful. I couldn't put it down. The things these young men endured were not in my realm of imagination. Knowing the author went to this school leads me to believe this is the way he and his classmates were treated. For me, it was shocking. I highly recommend reading it.
T-RadSR More than 1 year ago
Pat Conroy's writing is fantastic. I can read sections of this book over and over and just marvel at his use of the language and descriptions. The book is very different from the movie. The movie focuses more on the "The Ten' while the book is more about the protagonists overall experience during his four year residence at the institute. I will surely be reading all of Conroy's work. Highly Recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It takes you to the life of a military school. Very insigtful. I enjoy his southern stories, makes me wantto travel to this place.
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