Interpretation of "The Rich Brother" by Tobias Wolff My initial personal interpretation of the piece “The Rich Brother” was centered more around Pete, his personality, and life than Donald. The reason my thoughts were automatically drifted toward Pete was the title of the story that said, “The Rich Brother” that happens to be Pete, of the two…
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Much as he behaves in the story, I conjured up the image of a selfish, mean, and rude guy with a lot of money for Pete. The facts of the story that led me to draw this image of Pete in my mind were his distaste for Donald’s act of giving away his $100 that he expressed by throwing Donald out of the car and not even realizing how bad he has behaved. Instead, Pete says to Donald, “you’d better go” (Wolff 12), thus deceiving himself that he does not need Donald. Pete has the audacity to nod to the music in his car after throwing his brother out of it. While the overall impression of Donald was that of a good guy without money, I missed out some of the most important underlying messages in the story like the real meaning of being rich unless I had discussion about this story with my friends. After discussing the story’s interpretation with my friends and listening to theirs, I reached the conclusion that the story contains some very important messages that make it more meaningful and sophisticated than I had presumed. My friends came up with their own opinions and conclusions they had drawn from the story, all of which sparked a number of questions in my mind; who of the two brothers is really rich; the one with more money or the one with the better character? Does Donald really need Pete to make a living or is Pete really in need of somebody with a high character like Donald? Is money so powerful that it deprives man of all sensitivity, sensibility, and humanity? Does money do that to everybody or there was something very wrong about Pete that it did that to him? These and many more questions were discussed with the peers. Comparison of the two interpretations has led me to the conclusion that when we read something and interpret it by ourselves without consulting anybody, we are likely to adopt a biased approach toward interpreting it so as to draw the meaning that we want out of it. We approach the reading in a certain way and things seem to make sense that way. While we definitely have a viewpoint, we tend to overlook, if not completely ignore, various other meanings that can be derived from the same reading. The state of mind in which we read a story plays a decisive role in what conclusions we draw from it. In order to get the most out of a reading, it is advisable to discuss the story with peers so as to get their opinion. While the best results can be achieved if all peers have personally read the story at least once, the reader should at least summarize the story to the peers so as to ensure that everybody gets to know about it even if he/she has not personally read it. When I discussed the story and my interpretation of it with my peers, not only that practice exposed me to a variety of themes, ideas, moral lessons, and conclusions hidden in the opinions of my peers, but I also noticed a widening of the horizon of my own thoughts. The practice opened my mind and I also came up with new conclusions that I might not have been able to do alone. The strengths of personal interpretation include surfacing of a well-defined opinion of the reader that might be unique, sharpening of mind as one ponders over the facts of the story alone without anybody’s guidance or help, and maximization of learning as no other activity is as strong as building memory and interpretation skills as personal interpre
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