What does Will do that leads to Hank's beating in Shades of Gray?

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In chapter 16, Will finds himself in the shop owned by Mr. Riley, who is Hank's father; Hank is also at the store and is doing some light sweeping as Will and his uncle shop. Will has endured Hank's constant bullying for quite some time, and he is weary of trying to avoid him in order to keep the peace. While Will's uncle selects his needed provisions, Hank begins making quiet comments that only Will can hear, once more trying to provoke Will's anger.

Will gets so angry that he trips over a "rough place" in the floor and stumbles forward. He nearly falls, which catches the attention of Mr. Riley. Accusingly, Mr. Riley asks Will whether his son had caused him to stumble by tripping him with his broom.

Will is caught off guard by this predicament. Although Hank had not tripped him, Will is blinded by his anger as he remembers how often Hank has harassed him. He notes that Hank is looking at him "pleadingly" with a pale face and wide eyes; Hank's father often beats him, and Hank therefore realizes that Will's answer could create further conflict for him. Instead of answering directly, Will simply replies that he "wasn't hurt."

Mr. Riley believes that Will is trying to protect Hank; he orders Hank to "go on out back" while he gets his "strap." Hank tries to protest, but Mr. Riley refuses to listen.

As Will and his uncle leave, Will hears the rhythm of the strap hitting its target as Hank begs for "mercy." Will feels both satisfied and guilty for his role in this beating. His uncle quietly expresses his disappointment in the way Will handled the situation, stating that he was "dishonest" and that now finding peace with Hank will be even harder.

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