How would you describe the relationship between the two brothers, Randolph and Byron, in The Clearing? Is there obvious filial love and devotion, jealousy, or competition? How would you describe their father's relationship to them?

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In Tim Gautreaux's 2003 novel The Clearing, two brothers, Randolph and Byron Aldridge, run a timber mill in the backwoods of Louisiana. Their father, Noah (note the Biblical name), expected that Byron would take over the business, but he returned from World War I damaged by his experiences and lives an itinerant life before settling down as a law officer near the mill. His father, who is single-minded in his focus on the business but also cares about his sons, buys the mill simply to try to repair his relationship with Byron and sends Randolph to run the mill and check in on Byron. Noah clearly favors Byron, which Randolph is aware of, but he doesn't seem to resent it.

I think there is filial love between the two brothers, even though they are very different. Byron is haunted, hard-drinking, and prone to violence, even if it's usually others who incite it. Randolph is more practical, even-tempered, and conventional. He knows he can't really understand his brother's time in the war, but he does reach out to him and does his best to protect him, as well as reporting to their father on how things are going. The brothers come into conflict with the local mob that runs the saloon, and I think this brings them closer together as they have to depend on each other to fight back as the violence escalates.

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