In Brother Leon’s class, Jerry can tell that Leon is about to “put on [a] show.” Leon is a flamboyant and charismatic teacher, and enjoys shocking and playing “games” with his students. Now, Brother Leon singles out a boy named Bailey and calls him to the front of the class. Brother Leon accuses Bailey of cheating in class, and points out that Bailey’s perfect grades mean he must be either a genius or a cheater. Bailey insists he doesn’t cheat, but Brother Leon insists that Bailey cannot be perfect—“only God is perfect,” he says.
In this passage, Brother Leon entraps an innocent student in one of his calculated psychological games. This moment serves to show the parallels between Brother Leon and Archie, and to demonstrate the cruelty both are willing to engage in in pursuit of maintaining their own power.
As Jerry watches Brother Leon torment Bailey, he begins feeling tense and ill. He longs to be out on the football field, but knows that until class is over, he must endure Brother Leon’s “show.” As Brother Leon continues toying with Bailey, he catches him in an intellectual trap: if Bailey denies cheating, he is claiming to be perfect, and thus sacrilegious, and still deserving of punishment. Finally, someone at the back of the class speaks up, urging Leon to leave Bailey alone.
Brother Leon expertly traps Bailey within a psychological catch-22. He makes it so that Bailey has no way to take himself out of the spotlight—and no way to claim innocence not only in the eyes of Brother Leon, but in the eyes of God himself. This is true psychological torture—a controlled way of producing chaos and turmoil within an individual.
The bell rings, signaling the end of class. The boys begin gathering their things, but Leon instructs everyone to stay put. He calls the class “idiots” and “fools,” and says that Bailey is the only brave one among them—he stood his ground and denied cheating. The rest of the class let Bailey suffer, and turned the room into “Nazi Germany” for just a few moments. Leon congratulates Bailey on remaining true to himself, and tells Bailey that it is the rest of the class who are the cheaters—they cheated Bailey in doubting him, while Leon never did.
Brother Leon was toying with Bailey all along, of course, trying to impress a lesson about self-assuredness and the perils of groupthink upon his students. Despite this fact, Brother Leon will, as the novel goes on, behave in ways directly antithetical to this lesson that he himself thought up. Leon is a slippery character who has no allegiance to the things he himself preaches—only to maintaining and securing power over others.