In "Sucker" by Carson McCullers, why is Sucker sure that Pete has liked him all along, even though Pete has mistreated him?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Carson McCullers's short story, Pete mentions early on that Sucker is more like a little brother to him than a cousin; for, their relationship is not unlike that of older and younger brothers in which the elder teases and often exploits the brother for his amusement. Because of this attention that Pete does give Sucker, albeit negative at times, Sucker feels that his cousin cares for him.

Above all, Pete has confirmed this feeling. One night while the narrator lies awake in bed thinking of his infatuation for Mayella and elated that she has been nice to him after he has brought cigarettes to her, Sucker awakens and asks, 

"You do like me as much as if I was your own brother, don't you Pete?"
I couldn’t get over the surprise of everything until it was like this was the real dream instead of the other.
"You have liked me all the time like I was your own brother, haven't you?"
"Sure," I said. 

Sucker hugs his neck and tells Pete that he has always known that Pete liked him. After Pete replies "Sure" a second time and then tells his cousin, "You're a swell kid, Sucker," the cousin feels encouraged. Then, in the early stage of his relationship with Mayella, Pete remarks, "I did not forget about Sucker," and he interacts with with his cousin, so Sucker has good reason to believe that Pete truly cares for him.