Rumored by many, known to few living, Charlie and Eli Sisters are notorious for their trade stories of murder and ruthlessness. The brothers are introduced to a life of dismay early in life when Charlie, the eldest brother has his hand forced, killing his father who is an abusive and dangerous man, deserving of the punishment. Charlie then grows into a man unfit to emotionally deal with conflict, with force being his only rebuttal to confrontation. Due to his stone like heart and Eli’s desire to protect him, the brothers fall into the lives of hit men, given contracts by a man know only as The Commodore which causes them both mental and physical strain. As the two travel to California to complete a contract to kill Herman Kermit Warm, they stop at a town, meeting a tailor and shopkeeper- an honest man able to sleep clear of conscience. Although the brothers actively participate in their profession, and Eli is primarily the one concerned about his morality, both brothers feel a degree of guilt, creating a heavy conscience and a want for a new life.
The brothers are confronted with the idea of conscience when Eli states that shop-keeping “struck [him] as a restful industry. [He’d] wager that old man sleeps well at night”(50). Eli is concerned with the idea of a good night’s sleep being associated with a clear conscience. Charlie asks Eli earnestly “Do you not sleep well at night?”(50) which is answered with a certain no. The serious tone of Charlie’s question shows his concern for his younger brother’s conscience. Eli then goes on to tell Charlie that he, in fact, does not sleep like a stone as he claims and that he groans while he sleeps, showing an weary rest. Charlie shrugs this off in a cool manner but shows concern as his brother notices him trying to formulate another question. The joy left Charlie’s face, showing distress for both himself and his brother. However, he does not want to acknowledge his fitful sleep in fear of making himself appear weak. Eli wonders if anyone is “exclusively safe from worry and sadness” (50). Though Charlie puts on a brave front for his actions as an assassin, Eli sees through this façade, linking Charlie’ sleep with a guilty conscience.
Though the brothers are both anxious about the notion of a clear conscience, Eli seems to always put more thought into it, whereas Charlie handles his emotions in the opposite manner, by bottling them up. Eli proposes multiple times that they remove themselves from the business, and finally live a life outside of murder and death. Eli attempts to convince Charlie of quitting, citing that “Between Mayfield’s stash, and our savings back home, we have enough to quit The Commodore once and for all” (213). Charlie is reluctant to the idea and seemingly disregards his brother’s comments, followed by the statement that perhaps the two should go their separate ways once the contract had been completed. At this, Eli considers whether Charlie sincerely means that the two should separate or if he is only saying as much to goad Eli into staying. For Eli, the shopkeeper represents a life of leisure and enjoyment, free of shame over committing murder. Eli’s attempts to persuade Charlie to retire from the trade lead him to the conclusion that Charlie simply pities him. He has used Eli’s emotional nature in order to manipulate him into performing acts that he usually would not. Eli notes that many times he has fired his pistol simply because his instinct was to “protect [his] own flesh and blood” (216).
In the selected passage Eli attempt to make Charlie aware of the possibility of a normal life, free of the earthly dangers and horrors of the trade. Charlie’s response to Eli is one of disregard and indifference, but Eli is aware that this is only a façade and knows that his brother shows remorse for his decisions based on the unsettled sleep. Charlie continues on without knowing how well the idea has sunken into his head. When the boys come to a crossroads and the idea of Warm’s Company dies along with Warm and Morris, they find the deaths of their two friends to be unsettling.
Charlie is unsure of his condition, but he is content that his hand, too, will surely die along with the others. It is ironic that when Eli tries to stop his brother he essential gives him the life that he dreamed of- a life of safety free from the dangers of the road, and unavoidable death. Charlie seems to not be enraged by the loss of his hand, but subtly feels relief in his brother’s plans. For the first time the roles between the two had shifted and Eli now assumes the role of leader and Charlie, the submissive role. With Eli in charge, the two are now free to live a life free of the cruelties of their past, starting anew, a life of honest work and family. After returning home both brothers find this concept to be welcoming.
The passage displays that neither of the two are truly comfortable with the concept of their trade, as illustrated by their lack of restful sleep. It is only when the two return to their mother’s home, that the boys finally realize the possibility of this new life. Eli is happy to be home and feels that Charlie is relieved to be home, as well. When Eli returns to his room he states that “[He] could not recall a time when [he] was precisely where [he] wanted to be, and this was a very satisfying feeling”(325) this shows that for the first time Eli feels he is right where he needs to be.
DeWitt, Patrick. The Sisters Brothers. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2012. Print.