When we first see Rufus, he is his father's silent companion on a trip to see a Charlie Chaplin film. After the film, we see Rufus's deep love for and insight about his father. The narrator tells us that Rufus perceives that his father loves the silent companionship of their walks home as much as Rufus does, and also that his father needs to spend this time alone, away from the home, because it restores an inner peace he cannot otherwise gain. Rufus clearly adores his father and wishes he could make his father prouder by being a better fighter instead of being good at reading. These two differing feelings—the desire to please and the insight about his father's emotions—are characteristic of Agee's depiction of childhood throughout the novel: at times, Rufus seems very young; at other times, wise beyond his years.
The italicized flashbacks throughout the novel represent memories from Rufus's childhood, each displaying an event that shaped his development. It is hard to say what exactly Agee would have done with these sections had he lived long enough to work them into the body of his novel. Nonetheless, it is clear that childhood, and all that Rufus thought and felt at that time of his life, is vital to the shaping of the novel as a whole
Rufus is a very perceptive and intelligent child. Because he is young, there is much he does not know and understand about the world, but because he is perceptive, he notices much even when he does not understand the full implication of what he sees. For example, when he and his family go to visit his Great-Great-Grandmother Follet, Rufus gives her a hug, and describes her features and smell in incredible detail.