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“The Rich Brother” by Tobias Wolff

Siblings may have a complicated relationship. In some instances, significant personality differences may result in resentment between siblings. However, despite the differences, the love between the siblings usually triumphs. This is because blood is thicker than water. ‘The Rich Brother’ by Tobias Wolff is a narrative that highlights resentment and love that may exist between siblings. In the narrative, there is resentment between Donald and Pete, who are brothers. Pete and Donald have different personal characters.

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Donald trusts other people easily. This is sometimes disastrous to Donald. People may take advantage of Donald’s character flaws to exploit him. On the other hand, Pete does not trust other people. This has led to dissatisfaction in Pete’s life. Donald’s gullibility is one of the major factors that make Pete resent him. Despite the fact that the character flaws in the brothers leads to resentment, it may also lead to co-dependency. Therefore, the character flaws of the brothers enable them to complement each other. This helps in strengthening the love between the brothers. This narrative is a clear illustration of why opposites attract.

The rivalry between the brothers stems from Pete, the older brother. Pete believes Donald received more affection from their mother. There is a seven-year age difference between Pete and Donald. Therefore, prior to the birth of Donald, Pete received her mother’s entire affection. However, things changed after the birth of Donald. According to Pete, their mother favored Donald. Their mother was over-protective towards Donald. This created animosity between the brothers during their childhood.

However, the brothers were unable to solve their animosity. Therefore, it persisted into their adulthood. Pete tells Donald that their mother was in a state every time Donald burped (Wolff 91). This shows that Pete blames Donald for the perceived lack of affection from his mother. Interestingly, Pete does not blame his mother for neglecting him and showering Donald with all the love that he needed.

Instead, he resents Donald. The resentment made Pete cause physical harm on Donald during his childhood when he was at his most vulnerable state. He attacked Donald while targeting wounds from a previously stitched surgery. Pete attacked Donald on several occasions when their parents left him alone to baby-sit Donald. Therefore, Pete’s parents were oblivious of the resentment that existed between the brothers.

However, Pete plays down the effect of the physical attacks during a conversation with his brother. He refuses to acknowledge that this may be the source of the resentment between them. In the conversation, Pete tells Donald that he may abused him a few times during their childhood. However, he tells he plays down the effect of the abuse by telling that it is the nature of children to inflict physical harm on other children (Wolff 91).

Pete’s refusal to acknowledge or apologize for his ruthless behavior is one of the major factors that make the animosity between the brothers persist into their adulthood. Donald would like Pete to provide an explanation as to why he inflicted physical harm on him. However, Pete does not explain to Donald why he was taking his anger on him.

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He only says that he did not do it deliberately, when it was clear that he resented his brother. Pete’s egotistical nature or guilt may be the main reason as to why he refuses to apologize to his younger brother. However, the physical harm that Pete inflicted on Donald may also be reason as to why Pete continued to support Donald. Pete may have been carrying the guilt of inflicting physical harm on his younger brother at his most vulnerable state.

Significant differences between the personal characters of the brothers also lead to the resentment. Pete is very ambitious and wealthy. Pete exemplifies the life that most people in the middle class desire. He has a nice family that includes a loving wife and two daughters, a house, a sailboat, and other things that one can acquire with money. His job in the real estate business is the source of his immense wealth. On the other hand, Donald is not financially stable. He earns very little pay from his job and survives from debt when he is unable to find work.

He gets his source of income by painting houses. Pete humiliates Donald for being financially irresponsible. Donald suffers from inferiority complex due to the humiliations. Donald feels embarrassed when he is around his older brother. This is evident in the conversation where Donald was telling Pete why members of the church evicted from the community home. Donald tells Pete that he likes to make him look stupid (Wolff 90). This shows that Donald felt embarrassed when he was a sound Pete.

Donald does not like Pete’s affluent lifestyle. Donald strives to have a spiritually enlightened life. Donald gives out grocery to people who are in need. Despite the fact that Donald does not have valuable things, he gives out whenever possible. This shows that Donald is compassionate. However, this may also be the source of his downfall. People may take advantage of his trust to exploit him. Giving out grocery is one of the factors that led to Donald’s eviction from the community shelter. On the other hand, Pete does not like giving out what he owns to other people.

Webster shows the significant differences between the characters of the two brothers. Pete does not want to assist Webster, who is hitchhiking. On the other hand, Donald is eager to assist Webster. Later, Webster deceives Donald to give him $100. Webster tells the two brothers a mythical story on business opportunities in Peru. Pete is skeptical of Webster’s story.

However, Donald trusts Webster and offers him the $100 that Pete had given him earlier. After discovering that Donald gave Webster the $100, Pete is furious. Donald claims that he gave Webster the money as a form of investment on a certain gold mine in Peru. However, Donald’s act of giving money to Webster makes Pete evaluate his own character. This is because his character may be limiting his opportunities.

The story portrays the brotherly love between the two main characters. Despite the fact that Donald has many flaws, Pete continuously helps him. This is despite the resentment that he may have towards him. When Donald could not find work, Pete used to provide him with financial assistance (Wolff 88). Pete continuously gives Donald the financial help without asking for immediate repayment.

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When Donald asks Pete for some money, he gives him $100 and tells him “I can’t keep track of these nickels and dimes, just pay me back when your ship comes” (Wolff 90). This shows that Pete has offered Donald financial assistance on several occasions without asking for immediate repayment. In addition, Pete continuously helps his younger brother when he is in trouble. Pete helps Donald when members of his church evict him from the community home. Pete does not blame Donald for the eviction. He knows that it is his duty to assist him. In addition, Pete’s is unwilling to leave Donald on the roadside.

Pete is reluctant to discuss his personal life with his brother. Pete is reluctant to tell Donald that he dreams about him. Instead, he tells him that he only dreams about sex and money. However, in reality, Pete dreams about Donald. In the dreams, Donald helps Pete with his blindness. This shows that money and sex do not provide Pete with real satisfaction. The author shows that Pete needs spiritual help from people like Donald due to his ‘spiritual blindness.’ The author shows that despite Donald being the less successful brother, he is the more spiritual one. The author shows that financial prosperity does not lead to real satisfaction. People should also seek spiritual fulfillment.

‘The Rich Brother’ shows that Donald and Pete cannot live without each other. This is despite the fact that the brothers may dislike each other. Pete always supports his younger brother despite their differences. Donald carries memories of childhood trauma that make him resent his brother. However, this does not prevent him from offering him spiritual help. The differences in the characters of the brothers enable them to show each other a different dimension of life. This helps in strengthening the bond between the brothers.

Works Cited

Wolff, Tobias. “The Rich Brother.” Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry, drama, and writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman Publishers, 2007. 87-99. Print.

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