In most relationships, there is a struggle between father and son. The father wanted his son usually to grow up similar to the father, living vicariously through their child, and the son wants to find independance from the father and become his own person with his own set of morals and values. With Dana’s visits, she hopes to help Rufus transform and show him love so that he can transform from the hateful person his father is training him to become and instead become a loving, caring white man.
Tom constantly picks on Rufus for being stupid and uneducated, but perhaps he is only doing this because Tom himself is uneducated. Tom becomes frustrated as his own inability to read and speak properly that he wants his son to be able to be able to become more educated that he was and hopefully make more of his life and continue Tom’s legacy. His demeanor towards Rufus is very harsh and he seems to always be punishing him or treating him with disrespect as if Rufus were one of the slaves. Never once has the reader seen Tom be affectionate or loving towards Rufus, which may lead the reader to believe that Tom’s father was very cruel to him and therefore it is the only way that Tom knows how to parent. His lack of empathy for Rufus is highlighted when Rufus breaks his leg and the only concern that runs through Tom’s mind is the fact that he will have to expend money to heal it. This lack of affection could turn Rufus into a cruel father one day just as it had to Tom.
When Dana comes to visit Rufus, she hopes to give him affection that will translate when he is older and a father or a plantation owner. She hopes to make him more caring and filled with love rather than hatred like his father. She has insight to know that he makes a child with Alice, but hopes that this child is made out of love rather than rape like many interracial children were of that time period. She hopes that he will be an educated and caring young man unlike his father. Dana hopes that if she nurtures and loves Rufus in a way that no one else does, then he will grow up to be a caring and kind individual and pay all people with the respect that she knows they deserve. She has seen his father whip too many people to know that she does not want Rufus to be capable of such hatred and hopes that her teachings will help him gain independence out of his father’s shadow.