This passage hints at Cotton's selfless nature. He vicariously celebrates in the boys' independence, despite the sadness it signifies for him. In a way, Cotton has fulfilled his role at this point in the novel. Swarthout also employs this incident to foreshadow his death at the end of the novel. Because he has seen the Bedwetters' potential and has begun to have a significant amount of faith in their abilities and their sense of morality, he may then vanish from their lives, confident that his leadership has made an indelible impact on the way they will choose to live their lives.