John's habit of writing on desks shows his impulsive and rebellious nature.
John is good-looking and intelligent, but he is bored with school and hates it with a passion. In addition, he has a tumultuous home life, and is always at odds with his father. When John was a freshman, he acted out by inventing various pranks for the amusement of himself and others. He set off homemade explosives in the boys' bathroom, and organized stunts to disrupt the class whenever they had substitute teachers. Now that he is a sophomore, he says he has given up "all that kid stuff", and that the only thing he does that is even "faintly criminal" is write on desks. He sarcastically calls his vandalism, which is creative and humorous, his artistic expression.
John's antisocial behavior stems partly from an inability to see meaning in his future. He aspires to be an actor, but is unrelentingly criticized by his parents for his perceived unrealistic goals, and is constantly compared unfavorably to his older brother Kenneth, who as the ideal son has followed in his father's footsteps. John's father is an angry man who seeks escape through smoking and drink, and John looks at his father's stressful and unhappy life as a broker on the Stock Exchange and knows that this is not how he would like to end up. Although he is at heart a sensitive and compassionate person, John expresses his frustration and aimlessness in behaviors such as writing on desks.