Siblings ultimately share an “intense emotional tie” connecting them together (Schilb 346). This emotional tie is like an unsaid pact that siblings have that binds them together for life. This pact can build siblings relationships and draw them closer, or eventually discourage them and draw them apart. Growing up with a sibling tends to be very hard and very intense. Siblings are always in a constant battle consciously or unconsciously trying to one up their fellow brothers and/or sisters. This subconscious battle is what causes sibling rivalry.
Especially in an older sibling, who is always trying to out do their younger sibling and would do anything to accomplish dominance. Jealously is the sole driver that causes a sibling to want to overpower their brother or sister. It is an unconscious need or want to get the praise from their parents or to get the prize medal before their sibling does. One reason a sibling would have this subliminal drive is because they need a boost in their own self-esteem, or maybe they just allowed envy to consume them into the tasks.
The biggest reason a sibling could have rivalry is if they are having an internal battle with themselves. Whatever the case may be, sibling rivalry is the main cause of the weakening of relationships between siblings. Rivalry could eventually destroy the emotional ties between siblings. “The Rich Brother” is a short story by Tobias Wolff that focuses on two main characters Pete and Donald. Pete and Donald are two brothers who live drastically different lives, and each do not seem to understand why they chose to live their lives the way they do.
They cannot grasp the styles they each live as each considers their way of live the best way. These two brothers are all they have left in life, since their parents died. Pete and Donald are dealing with their own balance of having the correct amount of humanity and each are struggling to understand what it really means to be a sibling. Pete and Donald are each described as dissimilar people. Pete, who is the older brother, is rich, has a family, and has many materialistic objects that he has spent his money on. Donald, who is the younger brother, is the exact opposite of Pete.
Donald does not have a family, or money, or even a stable home. Instantly from the beginning of the story the reader sympathizes with Donald. Donald is constantly asking Pete for help, financially and practically because Donald does not seem to be able to stay in one place. Multiple times in the short story the reader gets hints at how dependent Donald is on Pete, and how much Pete despises it. The main premise of the story “The Rich Brother” is that Pete has to go pick up Donald because Donald got kicked out of another place he was staying at. Donald was staying at a farm owned by people of faith.
Donald believes the issue between he and his brother is spiritual and Pete believes the issue between them is prosperity. Donald joined the Christian faith looking for a group, or a “family of faith” as Wolff describes in the story (347). He was looking for a family, because he does not have a loving and supportive family. Pete is too focused on how much Donald did not prosper successfully and render the same life as him, that he only focuses on the parts of Donald’s life he doesn’t achieve anything illustrious. Pete despises Donald’s dependence on him, because Pete did not want Donald to prosper.
Every chance Pete gets he degrades Donald, yelling at him for spilling soda in his brand new car, or arguing against what Donald says. In the middle of the short story the reader even gets a flashback, of when Pete and Donald were young children. Wolff describes the scene of when Donald was recovering from a surgery, and Pete had to Burts 3 babysit him when his parents went out at night. The scene gets described from Donald’s perspective, and he states, “then you would lift up my pajama shirt and start hitting me on my stitches, you’d hit me as hard as you could” (352).
From the way the scene gets described the reader can assume that Pete must have been doing this unconsciously, because in the next scene of the short story he changes the subject. Pete, even at a young age, was very eager for greed. He unconsciously wanted to cause his brother harm, because his jealously was consuming him. This scene symbolizes how much jealously Pete does obtain, and how content be became when he was the one who became rich. This is why Pete despises Donald for being dependent on him.
Pete has lost all his hope of humanity and compassion, that he does not even realize how much he actually drove Donald into the life he is living. Even thought Donald is so dependent on Pete, he still isn’t getting the support he needs to succeed. Pete has lost all his sense of humanity, but on the other hand Donald has too much. Donald cannot find his own self, because he is too focused on being self-less for others. Pete cannot find himself, because he is too focused on being selfish. Editors John Schilb and John Clifford express a statement, “blood is thicker than water” (346).
This statement can be described that blood is thicker than water, blood relationships are thick and they should stay strong despite anything that might weaken the bond. Siblings should support each other despite anything. Neither Pete nor Donald has the correct amount of humanity, or self-righteousness to have the stable family relationship that they should have. Donald is too focused on others to have a healthy internal relationship with himself. Donald is described as being, “bony, grave, and obsessed with his soul (Wolff 347).
Donald was looking for something to fill the shallow hole of his soul because his own brother was too self-interested in himself and his money to understand Burts 4 why Donald is living his life the way he is. Their rivalry began at a very young age, but the reader sees a progression happen in the story. The reader sees Pete slowly transition into understanding how much Donald depends on him as the story progresses. Throughout the story there are many Biblical references and these references explain the two brothers disconnection. Pete is constantly referring to Donald as “brother” when is it evident that he does not see Donald as a brother.
Instead he sees Donald as an appendage or a leech, which is stuck to him, sucking money and life out of him. It is ironic that Pete calls Donald brother because he does not see Donald as a brother, and because Pete doesn’t treat Donald as a brother. In the Bible the disciples of Jesus Christ get referred to as Brothers and Sisters. The Bible explains to its readers to treat your brothers and sisters how they treat you, and to do it with respect. Pete only treats Donald with neglect. Another Biblical reference is when the story starts talking about Webster.
Pete and Donald stopped to eat and they came across a man named Webster who was trying to get to the destination Pete and Donald were driving to. Webster hints that he needed a ride, and Donald replies instantly with a yes, but Pete was not as sure. This represents Donald’s overwhelming sense of humanity, and Pete’s underwhelming sense. Once they begin the journey in the car, Webster tells them a story of how he got a job in Peru and how he eventually lost his wife from a disease, all because he became consumed by greed and gold. Webster kept repeating during his story, “the earth will be repaid, gold for gold” (Wolff 354).
This could represent how far, or how un-humane Webster became until he was able to see the light and become one for Jesus and for others. Webster even spoke of having another opportunity to open up the mine again, but chose to instead give the wealth back to the Indians that lived there and help every one “prosper together” (Wolff 355). This use of prosper is Burts 5 completely different than Pete’s use of prosper earlier in the story. Webster used prosper as a positive rather than the selfish way Pete used the word earlier in the story. Webster is a combination of both Pete and Donald.
He has Donald’s compassion and his want to live life for others and for Jesus Christ, but he also had what is holding Pete back from his humanity. Which is greed for gold and in Pete’s case it is money and materialism. Webster’s change of living could also represent how anyone who is living a life of self-indulgence and self-worth can change their ways. The way Webster became so consumed with his greed and eventually led to the loss of his wife could foreshadow the way Pete’s continuous need and want for money and materialism could lead to his loss of his brother.
Donald’s selflessness was holding him back from having a healthy relationship with Pete and Pete’s selfishness was holding him back. If Pete’s life didn’t revolve around what materialistic objects or activities he would be obtaining then he would have realized that his relationship with his own brother was cracking into little pieces. He did have a self- revelation when he decided to turn around and go back to pick up Donald after Donald was insistent on getting out of the car.
Pete’s jealousy made him obtain a rivalry with his own brother causing him to become resentful to Donald and all Donald wanted was to be loved by him. Donald found himself in the Christian faith, and maybe he found a family there too. If Pete continues to stay “innocent of the knowingness” or innocent of the unity Donald and Webster found with their faith, Pete and Donald may not be able to fix their relationship (Wolff 354). Pete may be too self reliant on his materialism. Each needed to find the correct balance of humanity to continue and grow their relationship in a healthy way.