“The boy already knew more about revenge than I did. What kind of man was he going to grow up into?”
Dana makes this observation about Rufus in part 2 of “The Fire.” In this section, Dana returns to the past for the second time to save Rufus from a fire he started himself. Rufus set his draperies ablaze in retaliation against his father, Weylin, who whipped him for stealing a dollar. The brutality of the punishment is striking to Dana, who comes from a culture in which children are rarely spanked, let alone whipped. At this point in the story, Dana is still easily shocked. She has not grown accustomed to the bloodiness of the past. Yet even at this early stage in the novel, and in Dana’s and Rufus’s relationship, the tenor of their relationship has been established. Rufus comes from a violent world, and he is being raised (and neglected) to be a violent master. Although he is still a child, Rufus already lives an existence in which whippings are a commonplace, and fits of pique result in fires. Although Dana does not answer the question she poses here (“What kind of man was he going to grow up into?”), we can guess, along with her, that he will grow up to be the kind of man his father is: harsh, powerful, and cruel.