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You Know the One. Stays to take care of the farm when Troubled but Cute up and leaves. Their attitude at the protagonist's return (it's rare they get the spotlight) varies between uppity, jealous, and happy. Even if happy, expect them to lay the moral smackdown on the hero for leaving.

Sometimes irritated that the Prodigal seems to be the favorite, while he's The Unfavorite. But they'll eventually forgive the (usually) younger sibling before the film ends.

Sometimes The Dutiful Son criticizes his sibling for being a dreamer. In a Western, expect The Dutiful Son to be a Determined Homesteader while his younger brother wants to be The Gunslinger.

Compare and contrast The Reliable One, Cloudcuckoolander's Minder.

Examples of The Dutiful Son include:

Anime and Manga

  • Sojiroh Nichikado of Hana Yori Dango serves this purpose in his family; his oldest brother left to become a doctor and is considered the black sheep of the family, while Sojiroh stayed behind to train to take charge of his family's tea ceremony enterprise. However, while he's not the protagonist, he's a far more important character than his never-seen brother, and is a flagrant hedonist and womanizer.
    • Similarly, his Korean counterpart So Yi Jung in the Boys Over Flowers K-Drama. Though the family is into traditional pottery instead of tea ceremony, and he's given a more sympathetic approach.
  • Illumi of Hunter X Hunter, the perfect emotion-impaired first son of an assassin family, is quite baffled by his little brother running away from home and talking nonsense about making friends and not wanting to murder people for money anymore. However, he remains convinced that it's just a phase and Killua will calmly return to the family business eventually.
    • Milluki, Killua's other older brother, fits the other part of this trope. He doesn't understand why his father and grandfather still favor Killua (the unofficial heir, despite being a rebellious middle child) over Illumi and him, and heavily resents his younger brother for this. Of course, he eagerly accepts the responsibility of disciplining Killua with chains and whips. Ironically, Milluki himself is a failure of an assassin (essentially a Fat Bastard otaku geek) according to the rest of the family (though he obviously thinks otherwise).
  • Witz Su from After War Gundam X is supposed to become one of these after his father and younger brother die and leave him to care for his very numerous family (mother, three sisters, one brother). However, Witz runs away from home and becomes a Gundam pilot, something his mom is very upset for, and doubly because she hates mobile suits. He gets to go back home with his girlfriend, Toniya, so it's hinted they've made amends.
  • Yukifumi "Yuki" Todou from Sensual Phrase is supposed to continue with the family tradition, which is Noh acting. He becomes a rock musician instead, and is even disinherited. He returns to acting when Aucifer is disbanded.
  • Muramasa Kaburagi, Kotetsu's older brother, from Tiger and Bunny, who runs the family liquor store and occasionally takes care of Kaede while Kotetsu is out being a Superhero.

Comic Books

  • When Hal Jordan joined the Air Force against his mother's wishes, she forbade him from seeing her until he quit. Hal's older brother Jim eventually had to quit college and return home, which only got worse as his mom developed cancer. When Hal was dishonorably discharged, Mrs. Jordan has already died and Jack nearly beats up his brother for making their situation happen.


  • One subplot in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly involves Tuco chastising his brother for staying home and taking the easy road by becoming a priest, whereas Tuco chose what he felt was the only other profession available to them: a bandit. (Tuco might have gone easier on his brother had the latter not had such a disapproving, condescending attitude to him and his activities.)
  • In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Luke seems to think that Leia is this.
    • Early drafts and one printing of the RotJ novel indicate that originally Owen Lars was supposed to be this for Sibling Yin-Yang with his brother: Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • It's a Wonderful Life is unusual in that the "prodigal" son is actually an Ace Pilot war hero who idolizes his older brother.
  • George VI is The Dutiful Son in Bertie and Elizabeth. Interestingly sympathy is with him rather then with his brother who comes off as rather a Royal Brat.
  • In the Steve Martin vehicle Parenthood, his prodigal brother that his father always preferred turns up and turns out to be as useless as ever, teaching his father the value of Martin's more dutiful ways.
  • In East Is East, only one of the children in the Big Screwed-Up Family takes a serious interest in Islam and obeying their father. That Maneer ultimately sides with the family against George seems to be what shocks him the most.


  • The Ur Example of course is the elder son in the parable of the lost son as told by Jesus in The Bible.
    • The parable is regarded by many as a biting criticism of the Pharisees
      • It has, though I don't think it was that. Jesus usually treated Pharisees like a Drill Sergeant Nasty. The father in the story made a gentle rebuke combined with a reminder that the father still loved him. I think it was at that time directed toward Jews who had worked so hard and now got to see gentiles "get in for free" and by extension anyone who had grown up, serving God more or less faithfully and who felt unappreciated.
      • The basic idea of the parable was that the father was representative of God, willing to forgive and take back anyone who comes back in genuine repentance, and at the same time criticizing those who considered themselves "above sinners" or basically holier-than-thou.
      • The Dutiful Son is one of the Prodigal Sons in the parable. The father reaches out to him even more than the son who traveled.
  • Agatha Christie used this in some Big Screwed-Up Family situations.
    • In Death Comes as the End, the eldest son Yahmose makes a plodding, responsible, henpecked contrast to his womanizing, hard-drinking brother Sobek and their spoiled little brother Ipy. Yahmose snaps after repeated taunting by his father's new concubine, committing several murders, beginning with the concubine.
    • In A Pocketful of Rye, Percival Fortescue makes a dull, respectable showing against his dashing younger brother Lance, the family Black Sheep who was kicked out of the family business years ago.
    • Richard Abernathie, whose funeral begins After the Funeral, maintained the family business and raised six younger brothers and sisters after his Promotion to Parent.
  • Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco; his older brother was a Loveable Rogue who got himself killed in battle by being too dashing to wear his helmet properly, after which Falco cleaned up the messes his brother left behind (see especially Poseidon's Gold).
  • Granny Weatherwax in Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad. She claims that after her sister Lily left, she had to stay and be the good one. She didn't seem particularly happy about this either.
    • Important note: She probably would have been the good one anyway, but what she really wanted was the opportunity to choose, which Lily took from her.
  • In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter:
    • Regulus Black as recalled by his brother in Harry Potter. Subverted, because in the Black family, this meant that he became a Death Eater while the 'shameful' one, Sirius, joined the Order of the Phoenix.
    • Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter. It's a twist on the described trope, though, as Aberforth is younger than Albus and viewed as the Black Sheep by outsiders, but not between the brothers themselves.
    • Percy Weasley in the first four books: prefect in his fifth year (Philosopher's Stone), Head Boy in his seventh year (Prisoner of Azkaban), followed by the career his mother Molly approved of in the Ministry of Magic (Goblet of Fire) - but his no-nonsense attitude give him trouble with his family: Molly sang his praises throughout the first four books and seemed depressed when he walked out on the family.; with Arthur, it's more a matter of absentmindedness than outright favoritism, and his siblings do love him but are peeved by his attitude (specially the very chaotic twins.) (He even has a Face Heel Turn, but returns home in Deathly Hallows just in time for the last battle)..
  • Sostratos in Over the Wine Dark Sea by Harry Turtledove. He is a respectable young man who gets along well with his father and younger sister. When he goes to sea as supercargo in the Ancient Hellenic merchant galley Aphrodite, he is always beside himself trying to keep the captain, his cousin Menedemos, from getting into trouble and hurting the family business.
  • Danny Saunders in The Chosen is like this. He does not follow this plot and feels no jealousy toward his brother. But he is a very dutiful son especially considering his rather "rigorous" upbringing.
  • Deconstructed in Memories of Summer. Lyric takes on the task of caring for her mentally ill older sister Summer, even managing to balance her social life at the same time. But as Summer becomes more and more unhinged and her medication stops working, the doctor says 14-year-old Lyric isn't capable of giving Summer the care she needs. Eventually Summer becomes violent and dangerous, so much that Claude fears leaving Lyric alone with her. They end up placing her in a mental institution at the end, which is the right choice but still breaks Lyric's heart.

Live Action TV

  • Picard's brother Robert in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Family".
  • Feel like guessing who in Supernatural? In a twist, Dean is just as capable of being a dutiful brother and as shown by "What Is and What Should Never Be", tends to idolize Sam. But it was revealed by the shifter in "Skin" that he/Dean does resent Sam for getting to leave. Dean also manages to combine this with Troubled but Cute.
  • A variation happens in the Sitcom Wings. Brian and Joe's mother ran out on the family when they were little, and their father... well, <wigflip, cuckoo>. So, anyway, Joe had to step up as a child and be The Dutiful Son; as he pointed out later when he ranted to his returned mom: "You left me to take care of two little kids, Brian and Dad!"
  • On General Hospital the extremely rich and equally screwed up Quartermaine family had Ned Ashton who was constantly trying to appease his grandfather and cover his cousin's screw-ups. He eventually left town simply because he got tired of it
  • Cesare Borgia goes above and beyond. He starts off by helping Daddy Rodrigo become pope, saves his life within the first two episodes, and refuses to leave his side even when the French are invading. All of this despite the fact that his father is basically forcing him to become a cardinal while giving his Too Dumb to Live brother the military position Cesare has always wanted and would most likely excel at.
    • Judging from what we've seen of season 2 so far he's over the whole dutiful son thing.
  • Stargate Atlantis: John Sheppard's brother in "Outcast", who stayed behind to take care of the family business while Sheppard was out on military ventures across the world after having a fallout with his father. They eventually manage to reconcile after their father's death.


Video Games

  • King Edgar, ruler of Figaro, is like this in Final Fantasy VI. After their father is murdered by the The Empire, Edgar's twin brother Sabin is so angry and upset that he can't take it anymore and wants to strike out on his own. Edgar tries to remind him of their responsibilities to Figaro, and what would happen to the kingdom if they both left. Sabin doesn't want to leave the kingdom hanging, but his desire for freedom is so overwhelming that it's tearing him apart. Edgar eventually proposes a coin toss, where the winner will go out on his own with no regrets. It turns out that Edgar rigged the coin toss so that Sabin would win either way, but this method allowed him to leave with a clear conscience.

Web Comics

  • Zalanna of Ears for Elves fits this trope very well, and wishes everyone else did too. Sometimes she lectures Tanna about it: "As daughters of the founding families, it is our duty- nay, our birthright to set an example for the common folk."