Pete: Loyal to a Fault
“The Rich Brother,” by Tobias Wolff is the story of two brothers that from all accounts couldn’t be more different. Pete, the elder brother, is the epitome of the American Dream. He has worked hard and become an entrepreneur, has a wife and kids, and even brags about an ocean view from his home. Donald is completely opposite. He is for the most part unemployed, and although he is a spiritual person, he has been unable to find the right fit for his spirituality and bounced from religion to religion. “The Rich Brother,” begins at the end of Donald’s most recent search for spirituality when he must call his brother, Pete, knowing that Pete cannot deny his brother’s need for help yet again, and asks to be picked up from the communal farm where he had been living. Throughout the story the reader sees numerous examples of Pete’s sense of responsibility toward his brother, his love and his dedication for family; however, Pete’s dominant characteristic is that he is loyal to a fault, making him an enabler of his brother’s childish ways at the same time allowing himself to be taken advantage of.
The first evidence the reader has of Pete’s loyalty to his family and Donald occurs within the first few paragraphs when the reader finds out that after Donald fails to find his way living in an Ashram as a Hindu, Pete paid his extensive medical bills from an undiagnosed case of hepatitis. As adults in the “real world,” we are expect to take responsibility for our own actions by both learning from a less than ideal life experience and paying back a debt, whether through finances or with a change in future behavior. Donald doesn’t see it that way though, and appears to have no sense of the value of money and how tough it was for Pete to earn it. He also lacks the physical capability to pay his brother back because before Pete is even finished paying off Donald’s bills he has found Christianity and joined a pentecostal community and begun to...
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