"It's very simple, Mr and Mrs Patterson. Your boy John isn't doing well in school because he thinks he's already got all the answers."
As far back as John William Patterson could remember, he'd always wondered why it was that people wanted him to admit he was wrong about things. It never seemed to make sense to him and if something didn't make sense, he wanted no part of it. The world was a scary, chaotic place before he'd figured out what made it work and here people were trying to make him lie and say he didn't know what was what.
The reason he was this way is sort of simple to explain. Had he been born here in the modern day, we'd probably think of his grade-school aged self as suffering from an autism-spectrum disorder of some sort. In the Flin Flon of the nineteen-fifties, however, he was diagnosed by means of the phrase "Holy JESUS!! There's something wrong with THAT kid!!" Oh, he was bright enough when something interested him but got bored and confused by things that weren't extremely simple. The more complicated things got, the more agitated and impatient he became.
The one thing that most irritated and confused him was trying to understand how the people around him thought. Given that one of the iron-clad rules he'd come up with was that people who got in his way were trying to push him aside (this made sense to him because he pushed aside anyone who got in his way), he had no choice but to 'defend' himself against children who tried to use their cuteness or brains to grind him down into the dirt. His father tried to teach him that people have feelings but Mrs Patterson clucked her tongue, said 'boys will be boys' and went merrily on admiring his knavishness and selfishness.
It wasn't just snitches that made school a pain though. Early school life was fun (except for reading. All those stories about kids who weren't real. Weird and wrong.) because there were problems to solve, processes to learn. IF a subject could be taken apart and put back together like the old alarm clocks in the den or the trains whose simplicity fascinated him, he did well. It was only when a subject couldn't be reduced to a sort of mechanical process that he did poorly. This made social studies and civics baffling exercises in trying to ask the unimportant question "Why?"
What made the subjects all the more irritating was that he told the teachers why to the best of his ability and always got poor marks and baffling notes about how people don't think or act that way. The conclusion that John derived was that essay questions were devised so that teachers could call him a narrow-minded dullard with a crazy-quilt idea of how people thought and behaved. If he wanted frustration, he might as well have all English classes.
What John never realized was that at the time, there was a trend in education towards preventing people from developing much of an interest in literature. The idea was that people were going to be pretty much the wet, squishy, organic brains operating machines of one description or another so imagination and literature were obsolete. Given his love of machines and that one of his many, many rigid preconceptions was that writers lacked 'virility', he might have done poorly in terms of grades but been a roaring success for the process itself.
The other source of frustration in young John's life was the odd, baffling human factor. For instance, his father clearly seemed to want to surrender far too much of his authority to his mother. The nerve of him sleeping all day while a woman bossed a man around. EVERYONE knew that women were innately less intelligent. All of his favorite magazines and the old men at the barbershop said so. Also, the nerve of both of his parents for liking the baby because he wouldn't follow the rules. The only thing that not following rules lead to was heartache.
This need to have a firmly established chain of command everywhere seemed to have been at the root of his rebellious phase. His parents assumed that he was angry all the time because that was the deal with teenagers. Will never learned that what really enraged his son and led to the thinly-veiled contempt with which he treated his dad was John's realization that Will was someone else's employee. Not that the older Patterson could see it. The idea that working for someone else was a source of humiliation and disgrace was not something that occurred to most of the people he knew. Sure, he liked it when he took over his brother's farm and became his own boss but he never felt as if he were less than a man when he was a (as John put it) wage slave.
As if it weren't bad enough dealing with embarrassing parents and petty tyrant teachers, none of the girls he dated seemed to know what a catch he was. Patsy O'Connor, who'd left him for some freak who wanted to a big shot artsy type, called him a weird, boring, sore-headed know-it-all who's only happy when he's winning. How very strange that people didn't understand him at all.