I am going to analyze main characters in the Tobias Wolff’s short story “The Rich Brother”. Donald and Pete are brothers. Pete is the senior brother, has a wife in Santa Cruz. Pete is able to make a lot of money owing to his hard work. This depicts him as a hard working person. However, he is not comfortable with the amount of cash he earns. The trait of being an industrious person who is not ready to settle on the comfort zone is evident. A sailboat, two daughters and a house are transformed into his possession. Pete obtains fortunes from his investment in real estate. This shows his character of entrepreneurship and family oriented traits. Donald is his younger brother who is still single.
Donald and Pete’s way of life and features make them totally different from each other. Donald is serious and slim while Pete is jovial and chubby. Donald’s fascination with the fate of his soul made him seek admission in an ashram. Curiosity is another character that is responsible for his actions of seeking admission in ashram. This act of carelessness is about to cost him his own life as he suffered from hepatitis. Pete was kind to pay Donald’s hospital bill and by the time he finished paying, Donald had already joined Christianity. He hopped from one house of worship to another singing in tongues and exchanging prophecies. Pete was unable to comprehend his brother’s behavior since their parents had raised them as decent people in the society. He thought that Donald was making an excuse out of it so that Pete could take him seriously. Pete is a kind person because he pays his brother’s hospital bill. Donald is a Christian but he is not serious with his course of following Christianity.
Donald worried about his soul, as well as about Peter’s. He was unable to content himself to the extent that he could not make his own judgments. This was the main issue of contention between Pete and his brother Donald. This depicts Donald as a concern person. Another issue was that Pete was materialistically prospering while Donald was not. Pete started sky diving at the age of forty together with his two friends who were amateurs. Pete’s definition of the experience was mystical. Donald was appalled when Pete told him how much it costs. Pete’s character of extravagance is developed. The excuse that Pete gave for sky diving was that at least he was trying something new in order to get rid of the routine and usual customs. He is now open to the world.
Donald also estranged himself from traditional way of life proceeding to live on the farm in the outskirts of Paso Robles. The owners of the house were members of Donald’s community who had purchased it and settled there with the proposal of initiating a family unit of faith. This was revealed in the first letter Donald wrote to Pete. Donald was very happy with his faith in the Lord and was always praying for his brothers and sisters. Pete was shy to speak out to Donald that he had only one brother. From the above scenario Donald is religious and he goes out of his way to ensure that he meets his goals.
In November, Donald stopped writing to Pete. Initially, this did not worry affluent brother until he invited Donald for Thanksgiving, and he refused to join them. Pete tried to initiate conversation by requesting Donald to leave the farm but he refused again. However, after a week, Donald called Pete informing him that he was leaving the place of his dwelling. Donald confessed that his reason for joining the community was that he was completely broke and his car had been taken away. Donald has a character of resistance to any advances. Consequently, Pete requested him to stay at his house but he refused only to accept it later. The affluent brother is caring and concern.
Pete wanted to send Donald a cash for the bus ticket but he changed his mind since he knew that Donald would try to save the money and look for cheaper means of transport. Donald is a mean person since he can put his own life at risk for the purpose of saving a few dollars. Nevertheless, Donald refused to tell Pete about the location of the communal farm. He insisted that the drive was long and asked Pete to meet him at Jonathan’s Mechanical Emporium instead. This was a service station close to the highway. Donald is ashamed of himself that is why he resists giving directions.
When the two brothers meet Pete gives him twenty-five dollars to pay for the sandwiches and coffee owed. This act develops the generous character of Pete since the money is more than the bill. He went ahead to pay and came back with two sodas. He entered into the car and gave Pete one of the sodas. Donald told Pete that the soda was his treat despite the fact that Pete gave him the money. For this reason, the action of treating Pete with his own money unravels sarcastic character of Donald.
There is an episode when the car starts, Donald’s soda topples over and spills on the passengers’ seat. This act depicts Donald as a careless character. Angry Pete snatches Donald’s soda and asks him to wipe the drink using his own T-shirt. This was mean of Pete even though Donald had been careless. Pete was upset with Donald’s carelessness because the car was new and he did not want to have leather seats that smell like orange instead of leather. Pete’s character of neatness is manifested. Donald’s apology was followed by long quietness between them.
Pete breaks the silence by asking his brother what happened at the farmhouse that led to his leave. Donald knew that the member of the community had written to Pete informing him about the reasons for ejection. Donald thought that his brother was only trying to pretend unaware of the situation. Pete admits that the head of the house wrote to him but he did not tell him their reasons for evicting Donald. Donald plainly confesses that he blew the chance of staying in the farm. He did not want to reveal the details of the matter but Pete insisted on knowing the truth about what happened.
Donald tries to confuse Pete not explaining the details why he was evicted, and asks his brother if he dreams of him. Pete reveals that he only dreams of cash and women. Donald is able to read from his brother’s eyes that the response is untrue. Pete notices his brother’s tactic of trying to avert the topic of discussion and asks about what really happened again. Donald claims that he was evicted because whatever he did was termed to be wrong. Chocolate, groceries and flour bought by Donald were always less in quantity. Donald sold the items to a family of eight kids who did not even speak English. In an effort to comfort Donald, Pete states that there is nothing wrong with being in business.
Despite Donald’s explanation, Pete is not convinced that his brother was evicted from the farm because of those reasons. He continues to insist on genuine reasons. Donald tries to explain that he caused a fire when he tried to cook something different from what was repeatedly cooked. Pete laughs out and this makes Donald feel that he is being mocked. Arguments ensue from their experiences in the past. Inside the cafeteria where they stopped to take supper, the two brothers meet Webster. Pete treats Webster with caution since he suspects his to be a burglar. On the contrary, his brother freely mingles with the stranger without putting into question his motives or character.
Webster alights in Soledad where he claims that his brother lived there and he could borrow a car from him. Pete misses Webster’s leave-taking since he was asleep and Donald took the steering when he got tired. Donald pulls over in the next service station to fill up the tank as Pete goes to the men’s room to relieve himself. When he gets back, the attendant asks for twenty-five dollars to cater for the fuel expense. Pete asks Donald to pay since he had the money. Pete is shocked to realize that Donald had given a hundred dollars to Webster. Pete is annoyed by his brother’s action because he had worked hard to earn the money. It gets to a point where Pete sees it best for them to part ways. He stops the car, leaves Donald and drives away without looking back.
The two brothers have different tempers. Pete is careful, caring, supportive and hardworking. On the contrary, Donald is careless, reckless, insensitive, lazy, but friendly. It is also evident that Pete is the dominant character since he is the person who seems to be on the right side of life. He is also there to help his brother get on his feet when he falls down.