In Kindred by Octavia Butler, why does Rufus aspire to be like his father?

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Rufus Weylin doesn't intentionally set out to be like his father. When he is a young boy and falls and breaks his leg, Tom's first comment is that the accident is going to cost him a lot of money. Rufus doesn't gravitate toward Tom's rough and violent personality, but it is important to remember the setting the two men live in. In this era, they were behaving as society expected them to do. Even Dana, African American herself, notes this about Tom in Chapter 4:

His father wasn't the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn't a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper. But I had seen no particular fairness in him. He did as he pleased. If you told him he wasn't being fair, he would whip you for talking back.

Rufus grows up being trained in how to eventually run a plantation and own slaves. His father teaches him how to be successful in the "family business," despicable though this is by any standards. But in this time and place, Rufus doesn't question following in his father's footsteps.

It can even be argued that by the end, he grows into a worse man than his father, as evidenced by his treatment of Alice and his manipulative treatment of their children, resulting in her suicide.

Although Rufus likely never made a conscious decision as a child to be like his father, the setting creates circumstances where Rufus becomes a little more like Tom with each passing day.

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Rufus does not want to be like his father, although he respects him, but he acts like him becaue he is perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

Tom Weylin seems like a harsh father and a cruel slavemaster.  Rufus understands a different side of his father.  As a child, Tom beats Rufus.  Yet he seems to appreciate that his father is just trying to do what he needs to do in a harsh society of slaveholders.

“Daddy’s the only man I know who cares as much about giving his word to a black as to a white.” (p. 181)

Rufus explains that this is one of the few things he can respect about his father.   Even though he does not want to be his father, he finds himself parroting his actions.  As in many cases of abuse, he relives the harshness of his upbringing in the man he becomes.

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