Bleachers

By John Grisham

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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

There are two major characters in the book, Bleachers, Coach Eddie Rake and his all american quarterback Neely Crenshaw. Coach Rake is a hero in Messina, Mississippi, he has been the high school football coach for 34 years. Told through the eyes of his players, Coach Rake is known to be the best football coach in Messina. Throughout Bleachers this legendary coach is diagnosed with cancer and is dying in his home. Many of his former players return home and hold a vigil at their old high school football field bleachers. The players share stories about the coach they both loved and hated. They reminisce about the good days of football that span over the course of three decades. Neely Crenshaw was one of Coach Rake's greatest players. He was Coach Rake's all american quarterback in the 1980's. He proudly wore the number 19. His future as a NFL player looked promising until a career ending knee injury in college.
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SETTING

The novel Bleachers takes place in Messina, Mississippi during the 4 days the town and former players await the death of Eddie Rake. Coach Rake was a legend he coached the Messina Spartans for over 30 years. He led the Spartans to greatness, they were an unbeatable team. During the 4 days, many of his players returned to their high school football field, "Rake Field", waiting for the field lights to go off as a sign of his passing. They shared their memories of their legendary coach. Most of the book is told through the eyes of Neely Crenshaw the high school All American. All the characters tell their story through a flashback, they are their memories and stories of the past. They relive the old games and great moments.
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THEME

In the novel Bleachers by John Grisham there are many themes. Forgiveness is a very important theme that continues throughout the course of this book. Eddie Rake hits Neely during the half time at the 1987 championship game. Neely reacted by knocking out his coach. After this, the two never spoke again. Neely realizes he has a lot to forgive. After 15 bitter years Neely returns to Messina with many other past players to await the death of their coach. They all seem to have a love/hate relationship with Rake. Neely realizes he must forgive his coach for what he had done, he must forgive himself for the anger he had for getting injured in college and never making it to the NFL. He came to realize that people he had once treated poorly needed to forgive him for his actions from when he was in high school. Neely's anger didn't allow him to live a happy life for the past 15 years. He couldn't get over not playing football and the hurt left by his wife leaving him. Another theme was greatness, what does it mean to have true greatness? This book shows that none of us are perfect, we all make mistakes. Coach Rake's heart was in the right place. Rake was a tough coach, he worked his boys hard. Preseason training was the worst and it was what cost him his job when a young player died as a result. Although Coach Rake couldn't express himself, you knew he really cared for his players and for people. He wanted them to be great, be the best they could be. After his player died and he was fired he had a hard time dealing with the people in town. The town was torn apart. Even while he was hurting he still helped others, like Nat Sawyer. Nat was the only gay player Rake had ever coached. He helped him by being his first customer at his coffee shop in town. The more Rake became a regular at his coffee shop the rest of the town followed. He was a great man who demanded greatness because he cared for people, especially his players. His greatness and the greatness of his players will live on forever. Through them and their stories told to their future generations.
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PRAISE OR PAN

Football is a rough and tough sport, we all know that. I've experienced this personally. In this book football is being used to tell a story. A story about forgiveness and greatness. It could have been about any other sport, everyday life or any gender. We've all come across someone who has done something not so nice to us or vice versa. Forgiveness is important. We all make mistakes. This book makes you feel like you're in the story sitting with the "boys" in the bleachers reflecting on your own personal moments of greatness in "the game". In the end, I would praise this book because of the amazing theme of forgiveness and greatness. It's a feel good book, leaving the reading wanting more.