The slaves in these two writings appeared to be content with their living arrangements in the beginning of each of these stories. Then, something happens that requires them to take a second look at the situation that they are in and they discover it is not what they had thought it was. Both of these writings show what a little bit of knowledge and/or education can do. .
Of the Coming of John refers to John in the beginning as "just bubbling good nature and genuine satisfaction with the world". "The white folk of Altamaha voted John a good boy, - fine plough-hand, good in the rice-fields, handy everywhere, and always good-natured and respectful. But they shook their heads when his mother wanted to send him off to school. "It"ll spoil him, - ruin him," they said; and they talked as though they knew." Moreover, they did know. They knew that education would give John knowledge that they really would prefer him not to have. Even the white postmaster knew what had happened when John returned from school. "That damn Nigger," said he, as he shouldered the mail and arranged his tobacco, "has gone North and got plum full o" fool notions; but they won't work in Altamaha." .
In the south, where Altamaha was, the whites liked things the way they were. The plantation style of life was comfortable for them and they did not want to give it up, even if it meant keeping the blacks oppressed. The Judge told John, "Now I like the colored people, and sympathize with all their reasonable aspirations; but you and I both know, John, that in this country the Negro must remain subordinate, and can never expect to be the equal of white men. In their place, your people can be honest and respectful; and God knows, I"ll do what I can to help them. But when they want to reverse nature, and rule white men, and marry white women, and sit in my parlor, then, by God! we"ll hold them under if we have to lynch every Nigger in the land.