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Pete is the older brother of Donald, and works in real estate, where he earns a fairly large sum of money. He cares for two beautiful daughters, and enjoys sailing on a nice sunny day on the ocean which he sees every morning from his bedroom window. He drives to work in his brand new luxury car with the window open, the wind blowing through his hair, smiling with delight at the people whom he calls his friends. Pete has everything going for him, and some might even describe him as a man who fulfilled the American dream. However, as the slogan of the movie American Beauty would say, “Look closer,” and when one does, excessive brotherly competition and Pete’s deep inner conflicts begin to surface.
While Pete seemed to live a normal, gratifying life at home, his excursion to pick up his brother Donald leads to some thought about Pete’s inner-self. When Pete comes to get Donald, he learns that Donald owes money to some people for sandwiches and coffee. He quickly thrusts his hand into his pocket to throw one hundred dollars in Donald’s hand. Donald, acting as if appalled by the money, tried to give some of it back to his brother, yet Pete shoves it right back at him calling the money, “nickels and dimes.” While he knows that his brother’s pockets are empty, it seems as if Pete enjoys forcing money into Donald’s hands to display his wealth, because of the vast amount of jealousy between the two. Pete uses money as a weapon against his brother, and to show that he will always be a few more notches up the ladder than Donald. Yet Donald, who still attempts to show love for his brother, grabs Pete an orange soda for the long trip home.
The story takes another turn when Donald hops out of the car to get bags, and spills the orange soda all over the expensive leather seats in Pete’s brand new car. Pete instantaneously enters a state of fury and screams at his brother to wipe off the seats with his valued Try God T-shirt. It is as if the self-centered Pete does not care at all about Donald’s faith, and instead uses the symbol of his faith, the T-shirt, to wipe the soda from his prized possession, a car. This symbolic action can be taken even further to show that Pete has no regard for religion, which is Donald’s one passion. Pete’s materialistic outlook on life is once again portrayed when Donald discovers that this is Pete’s new car, and so he asks, ” What was wrong with the other car?” and Pete simply responds, “I just happened to like this one better.” Although he does not deserve to be criticized for having money, Pete should not place such an emphasis on his high-priced, precious car in the presence of his destitute brother. There is very little reason for him to do so, and it is around this point in the story where the narrator begins to hint on Pete’s superiority complex and his delight in seeing his brother fail.
Once the soda pop issue was resolved, Pete addresses the subject of why Donald left the farm, knowing very well that it was Donald’s irresponsibility that caused his dismissal from the plantation. Donald, embarrassed of himself as usual, utters, “I blew it. Believe me, you don’t want to hear the gory details,” and Pete quickly replies, “Sure I do.” Furthermore, Pete goes on to explain that he takes pleasure from hearing how someone else, particularly his brother, messed up, because that’s “the way it is here on Spaceship Earth.” Looking deep into the matter, it appears that Pete enjoys hearing about Donald’s shortcomings for self-reassurance, or even to convince himself that he is the better of the two.
The conversation shifts once more when Donald asks, “Do you ever dream about me?” and Pete tells him that he only dreams about sex and money, and that lacking wealth is his only nightmare. One more time, we see Pete’s obsession with his assets, which is everything that Donald does not believe in. One can tell that Donald senses Pete’s weak character, beneath the money, because he is always probing under his brother’s surface.
In conclusion, Pete is not the man which he appears to be, especially to his brother. Perhaps it takes the solid connection between brothers to feel the hunger and emptiness beneath the exterior, which is how Donald knows that Pete isn’t exactly delighted with himself. Earlier, it was said that some people might see Pete as a man who accomplished the American dream. If the American dream includes happiness, then it is safe to say that Pete came quite a few steps from that dream, due to his deep psychological conflicts, one of which is his superiority complex. This complex is more than just about money, but self-sufficiency and the competition between himself and his brother Donald, where he continuously fights to come out on top.
conflicts, one of which is his superiority complex. This complex is more than just about money, but self-sufficiency and the competition between himself and his brother Donald, where he continuously fights to come out on top.
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