Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan


Susan McConnell

Susan is a lonely girl who dreams of having acceptance and popularity in high school, and yet she lives in the day dreams of her mind, always telling herself that someday things will be different, someday she’ll live alone, isolated, happy. She’s intelligent, the only junior in a senior English class. Initially, she is easily manipulated because David, the object of her affection, asks for her help. However, Susan soon sees the situation with Mr. Griffin in a new light. It is this new awareness that drives Susan to help others become aware that perhaps they’ve done something very wrong.

Mark Kinney

Mark is a mysterious, multi-layered character. His deceptive appearance allows one to think he is half asleep and not paying attention, but he sees everything. Cool and calm, he manipulates people and situations by constantly observing for weaknesses. Mark’s motivation is revenge for the public humiliation he had to endure at the hands of Mr. Griffin. When others try to interfere with this revenge, Mark takes matters beyond manipulation and proceeds to destroy whoever stands in his way.

David Ruggles

David is a responsible, scholarly young man with big dreams of one day becoming a lawyer. While he loves his mother and grandmother, he can feel the pressure from his mother to become successful for the sake of his family. He is torn by this knowledge that he must be successful and an overwhelming desire to be free from responsibility. When he sees a chance at this happiness by joining Mark’s plan, he jumps without considering the consequences. David wants to do the right thing, but his personal turmoil makes him weak and indecisive.

Mr. Griffin

Strict with his students, Mr. Griffin is a perfectionist when it comes to their work. He doesn’t take excuses. He’s aware of his abrasive personality, but popularity doesn’t matter to him. He truly cares for his students, but not in a way that is immediately recognizable to them.

Jeff Garrett

Jeff’s anger is the driving force behind the plan to kidnap Mr. Griffin. His temper has gotten him into trouble in the classroom before, which leads to his embarrassment. His world revolves around the basketball court, the only place where he can maintain some control. Off the court, his is mystified by Mark’s hold on him, but because Mark can control himself and other, Jeff goes along with what his best friends asks of him.

Betsy Cline

She’s not the prettiest girl in the school, but Betsy Cline has a way with people that gets her noticed and makes her popular. She’s the head cheerleader, homecoming queen, and teacher’s pet. At home, she’s the only child to a single parent, so she’s used to getting her way. The one thing she can’t get, though, is Mark’s attention. She refuses to leave Mr. Griffin’s class or break up with Jeff just so she can be close to Mark. And since she is persistent about having her own way, she will do whatever it takes to win Mark’s affection.

1.      Look at the lyrics Susan wrote for Ophelia’s Song again.  How does this song sum up the story?  How can we relate it to the characters and events that have happened in the novel?


Where the daisies laugh and blow,

Where the willow leaves hang down

Nonny, nonny, I will go

There to weave my lord a crown.


Willow, willow, by the brook,

Trailing fingers green and long,

I will read my lord a book,

I will sing my lord a song.


Though he turn his face away,

Nonny, nonny, still I sing,

Ditties of a heart gone gray

And a hand that bears no ring.


Water, water cold and deep,

Hold me fast that I may sleep.

Death with you is hardly more

Than the little deaths before.

What do you think?

What motivates people to murder?  Is murder ever justifiable? Why or why not and when?  What should society do to help bring down the murder rate? How should society educate and mediate murderers in society to prevent and reduce murders?