Mr. Perry, Neil’s father, has just entered Neil’s room. The boys greet Mr. Perry politely. Mr. Perry tells Neil that he’s signed up for too many extracurricular activities that year—he’ll have to drop the school paper. Neil insists this isn’t fair, and Mr. Perry motions for Neil to speak to him outside.
Much as Dean Nolan forced Todd to try soccer, an activity Todd doesn’t particular enjoy, Mr. Perry forces Neil to change his extracurricular activities. Mr. Perry prioritizes Neil’s academic success, even if it means forcing Neil to give up on some of his passions.
Outside, where they’re alone, Mr. Perry angrily tells Neil never to contradict him in public again. Mr. Perry reminds Neil to listen to his parents until he’s finished with medical school. Quietly, Neil agrees. Mr. Perry nods and leaves. Neil is furious with his father.
Mr. Perry is a highly strict parent—the fact that he gets angry with Neil just for politely disagreeing with him suggests that he’s used to controlling Neil’s life without question. Neil is too frightened of his father to contradict him again.
Back inside the dorms, Neil tells his friends that he won’t be working on the paper, and they tease him for being so obedient to his father. Neil snaps back that none of his friends would dare contradict their parents, and they fall silent. Meeks mentions that they should study Latin later that night, and invites Todd to join them.
The Welton students (at least those we’re introduced to) share a common bond—fear of their parents. The importance of academics at Welton is clear: the students are already studying hard, even before the first day of class.
Alone in their room, Neil and Todd talk about their fathers. Todd mutters that he’d take Neil’s father over his own any day, but doesn’t offer any explanation. Neil tells Todd that he’ll need to speak up if he hopes to do well in school. Then, angrily, he jabs his achievement pin into his thumb, drawing blood, and throws it across the room.
Todd is shy about his family life, so that, for now, he doesn’t open up to Neil. Neil is visibly frustrated with his father, and with his own inability to speak up to him. Neil’s small but violent action—cutting his thumb—foreshadows his tragic suicide at the end of the novel; when Neil is frustrated with his father he takes it out on himself.