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Analysis of "Rich Brother"

  • Date Submitted: 05/05/2013 02:08 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 59.6 
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I want to make some observations about Tobias Wolff’s “The Rich Brother” in terms of the approaches we’ve been using in English 303.   Specifically I’ll talk about the story’s theme, conflict, characterization and point of view.  
Wolff’s story includes several different themes.   Perhaps the most obvious of these is family.   Wolff portrays the brothers as drastically different from one another.   They constantly disagree and disapprove of one another’s actions.   Yet despite the dissonance between them they maintain a consistent relationship.   It becomes evident that Peter cares about Donald in the very first conversation between them.   While Peter disapproves of Donald’s choice to stay at the farm, he speaks compassionately.   It would have been easy for Peter to simply say “I told you so” or to begin lecturing him.   Instead Peter encourages him to make the right choice, and doesn’t hesitate to offer him a place to stay.   Peter sees Donald as a burden, yet it is Peter’s choice to continue helping him.   Truthfully, if Peter wanted to relieve himself of his burden it would not have been difficult or unjustified.  
I would argue that the struggle between material wealth and religious morality is the most important theme in this story.   The text that surrounds discussion of Pete is very often about his liberal using, or even wasting, of his wealth.   Religion comes into this theme because these material values of Pete are in constant conflict with the spiritual values of Donald.   More basically the themes exist because they are prevalent in the text.   Pete’s use of money is focused on in mentions of things like his new car and his experiments with sky diving (including the insinuation of drug use).   These uses of money are extremely wasteful since they don’t seem to have any concrete products.   While a new car did come out of the purchase it was to replace a perfectly good car.   The theme of religion and morality exists in Donald’s emphasis through his “Try God” shirt,...


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