The cap can be seen as a symbol of innocence and childhood that is about to be taken away from Rufus when his father dies. It is the last instance of absolute happiness that we see Rufus experience in the novel. Aunt Hannah helps the boy choose the cap he really wants; she is very attuned to what he is thinking, as she knows that at first he will only try on conservative caps that his mother would allow. In encouraging Rufus to get the cap that he wants, Hannah is also encouraging him to listen to his own individual preferences. She reflects that she does not want to cause tension between Rufus and Mary, but she feels that, in this instance, Mary would get Rufus the cap herself if she knew how badly he wanted it. The fact that Rufus chooses a cap that is flamboyantly colored and too big for him reminds us of his youth; he is not old enough yet to care about looking handsome or stylish.