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A Death in the Family

Chapter 1

Summary Chapter 1

The entire novel is written in third person omniscient, but in the first chapter, we are given Rufus's point of view. He is a sensitive boy—a trait he most likely gets from his mother—which we see through the acute intuition the boy has for what his father is thinking and feeling. Rufus can sense that his father achieves an important part of his sense of well being in the moments of silence apart from the home and family life, even though the boy never doubts the father's love.

In moments of intense emotion throughout the novel, Agee links his characters to nature imagery. In the scene when Jay and Rufus sit on the rock, for example, Agee uses images of nature to link the father's and son's human emotions to intransient material things, thereby showing the universality and eternal presence of these feelings in human relations: "he saw that his father's eyes had become still more clear and grave and that the deep lines around his mouth were satisfied; and looked up at what his father was so steadily looking at, at the leaves which silently breathed and the stars that beat like hearts." By personifying images such as leaves and stars, Agee makes everything in the scene appear to have a life of its own. The fact that the boy feels that everything his father sees has its own life behind it highlights the complete adoration he feels for his father.