The Powerful Bonds Of Six Fictional Brothers And Sisters

The Powerful Bonds Of Six Fictional Brothers And Sisters

In this blog, we explore the bond between fictional brothers and sisters and how this unique dynamic creates compelling and unforgettable narratives.

Brothers And Sisters – Together Forever

From childhood adventurers in the 30s Deep South in To Kill A Mockingbird to the flawed family dynamic in today’s New York in We Are The Brennans,  the interplay between siblings of the opposite sex can create memorable and strong character-driven fiction.

The heartbreaking real-life story of his sister also inspired Tennessee Williams’s iconic play, The Glass Menagerie.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird – Scout and Jem Finch

In Harper Lee’s enduring classic, we meet Scout and Jem, the only children of widowed father Atticus, a lawyer defending a black man in the racially divided Deep South of the 30s.

Jem acts as a guiding figure for tomboyish Scout, teaching her little life lessons and looking out for her. Scout, in turn, admires and respects Jem. She is always seeking his approval and following his lead.

The novel powerfully portrays the complexities of childhood and the bonds of family. For me, the easy affection and uncomplicated love between Scout and Jem adds a special poignancy to the story.

And if Boo Radley had a sister, his childhood might have been different. Perhaps happier, certainly less solitary. 

  1. The Prince Of Tides – Tom and Savannah Wingo

In Pat Conroy’s sprawling, lushly written family saga, we meet Tom and Savannah –fraternal twins who could not be more different if they tried. However, they are forever bonded by shared psychological wounds.

The inciting incident comes when poet Savannah attempts to commit suicide, leading Tom Wingo, a high school football coach, to come to New York to see her. While sorting out his sister’s care, he meets her psychiatrist, Dr Lowenstein, who relies on Tom to be his sister’s memory.

In the story, Tom is protective of Savannah. This stoic Southerner feels responsible for her well-being. Savannah, on the other hand, struggles with depression and a troubled personal life, leading to a strained dynamic with Tom.

The relationship between Tom and Savannah drives the plot of The Prince of Tides. Through brother and sister, Pat Conroy explores the secrets families keep and the harrowing consequences of suppressing shame and hiding the violence of the past.

The ‘twin’ bond between the two characters forms the emotional core of the narrative as each helps the other towards painful self-discovery and bittersweet reconciliation.

  1. A Room With A View – Lucy and Freddy Honeychurch 

In E.M. Foster’s sparkling and humorous novel, we meet a young Englishwoman, Lucy, and her brother, Freddy, during a holiday in Florence. Each embodies in some way the changing attitudes and viewpoints on romance and sex in the last years of the Edwardian era.

Lucy, as the older sister, takes on a nurturing ‘mother’ role towards her brother. Freddy, on the other hand, is depicted as somewhat hapless and dependent. Despite their differences, there is a tender bond between them.

However, Lucy’s growing sense of independence and Freddy’s attachment to her create tension and conflict between these siblings. Freddy’s lack of awareness and impulsive actions are often at odds with Lucy’s need for stability and propriety.

Forster purposefully (and cheekily) weaves the word view into the title of his story. Viewpoint is a pivotal element in the plot, characters, and exquisite setting.

The story essentially revolves around the contrasting perspectives on a shifting society, as embodied by sister and brother.

  1. The Middle Age Of Mrs. Eliot – Meg Eliot and David Parker

In Angus Wilson’s literary marvel, we meet Meg and David, siblings who find middle age less about mature wisdom, but rather a period of bitter weariness.

The novel tells of Meg, a widow, and her relationship with her brother, David. When her barrister husband is killed in East Asia, this vibrant and social woman looks to painfully rebuild her life and reclaim her identity.

At the same time, her brother loses his life partner to cancer. They used to run a nursery together, but now David lives in isolated stoicism.

As their bond is re-established, Meg and David discover again shared memories and the closeness of childhood. Of course, this can be nostalgic but also dangerous – you can get lost in the past. In fact, the author cleverly uses the ‘nursery’ as a metaphor between a garden centre and a children’s room.

Brother and sister realise that they are both retreating to a destructive stasis.

However, the fact that only Meg pushed forward into the future and created a new life for herself is telling.

David is left behind. Sometimes anticipating the pain of tomorrow is too much and we go back to the comforting embrace of memories of our past.

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  1. We Are The Brennans – Sunday and Denny Brennan

In Tracey Lange’s novel, we meet Sunday and Denny. Much like Tom and Savannah, these siblings must navigate their complex bond amid a New York Irish-Catholic family’s secrets.

After causing a drunk driving accident in California, Sunday returns to New York to rebuild her life. Of course, Denny is there to support his ‘addict’ sister.

Sunday stands as the sole sister among her brothers. The story delves into her strained relationship with Denny, a dynamic often found in dysfunctional families. Despite driving each other crazy, they stand together in times of crisis, showing the complex (but unbreakable) bond they share.

Sunday’s return to her family serves as a catalyst for the plot. Her past and pain become a mirror for each character to examine their own struggles, shame, and understanding of love and family.

  1. The Glass Menagerie – Tom and Laura Wingate

In his introduction to the play, Tennessee Williams confesses that The Glass Menagerie is a ‘memory play’. What is not always known is that the memories are the author’s own.

The real-life inspiration behind this play is a haunting one. The great playwright had a close relationship with his older sister, Rose. She serves as the model for the character Laura in The Glass Menagerie.

Both Tennessee and Rose shared a lonely childhood and adolescence. While Tennessee turned to writing to make sense of the world, Rose sadly retreated into a vague world of schizophrenia.

Early on in her life, she needed psychiatric attention and was subjected to a harrowing lobotomy. She spent most of her life in a sanatorium. In many ways, Tennessee Williams was forever haunted by her illness.

In his Memoirs, Williams writes of her ‘ineluctable grace and purity of heart’. This fragile, exquisite tenderness and otherworldliness are reflected in many of the female protagonists in his plays.

The Final Word

The portrayal of the sibling relationship is frequently undervalued in fiction. However as seen by the six examples, the dynamic between siblings can be powerful.

It has the potential to enhance character motivation, enrich plots, and delve into universally human and relatable themes for most readers.

anthony ehlers

By Anthony Ehlers. Anthony Ehlers facilitates courses for Writers Write. He writes awesome blog posts and workbooks too.

More Posts From Anthony:

  1. 5 Secrets To Writing A Strong Inciting Incident
  2. 5 Reasons To Start Writing A Story With Viewpoint In Mind
  3. 7 Extraordinary Authors With Extraordinary Word Counts
  4. The 5 Easiest Genres To Plot
  5. The 5 Toughest Genres To Plot
  6. Action Is The Hero
  7. 5 Fears That Keep You From Finishing Your Novel
  8. 5 Ways To Look At Viewpoint (Slightly Differently)
  9. 5 Fresh Starts To Your Writing
  10. 8 Ways To Uncover Your Character’s Motivations

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Posted on: 7th May 2024