Peter, one of three brothers whose father, on his deathbed, wills each of them a new coat that is guaranteed to last a lifetime, given the proper care. The father provides detailed instructions for such care and enjoins his sons Peter, Martin, and Jack to live together peaceably under one roof. Peter goes in search of giants and dragons with his brothers and develops an increasingly enlarged sense of self-importance. When their father’s coats no longer reflect the current fashion, the brothers, under Peter’s leadership, adjust the coats accordingly. A relentless quest for knowledge, power, and possessions sends Peter in pursuit of experimental science and frenzied finance. He buys a “Large Continent,” which he resells numerous times. He discovers a sovereign remedy for worms and engages in other quackery. Dedicated to pride, projects, and knavery, Peter eventually turns into a madman. In his delusions, he calls himself Lord, Emperor, Father, and even God Almighty. His need to make all people subservient soon affects his relationship with his brothers, whom he rules as a despot. They finally rebel and begin their separate existence when Peter, in his rage, turns them out. Allegorically, he represents the pope or the Catholic church.
Jack, Peter’s brother. After his break with Peter, he begins to evince the extremist zeal of the dissenter or reformer. He and Martin wish to rediscover and honor their...
(The entire section is 600 words.)