Left in the dead of night
And I was there when three months later
You were standing in the door all beat and tired...
But I'm gonna be here until I'm nothing
But bones in the ground..."
The Dutiful Son stays to take care of the farm or other family duties when Troubled, but Cute up and leaves or The Hero gets The Call. His attitude at the protagonist's return (it's rare he gets the spotlight) varies between uppity, jealous, and happy. Even if he's happy, expect him to lay the moral smackdown on the hero for leaving, although he'll eventually forgive the sibling before the work's end. Despite the name, this trope is not Always Male; female examples are less common but still present.
Sometimes the Dutiful Son criticizes his sibling for being a dreamer. He probably strongly believes it's his duty to Honor Thy Parent. In a Western, expect the Dutiful Son to be a Determined Homesteader while his younger brother wants to be The Gunslinger.
- 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 about, 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.
- Funimation's dub of Asteroid in Love makes Ao's explanation of why she doesn't tell her parents she doesn't want to move with them to sound like she attempts to be this, despite the fact that it is heartbreaking to her.
Ao, in the dub: Adults shouldn't have to jeopardize their career paths to satisfy the whims of a child.
- Sojiroh Nichikado of Boys over Flowers 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.
- Kojiro Hyuga in Captain Tsubasa does plenty of part-time jobs to support his family, since his father died when he was very young. Part of his motivation is to secure a well-paid professional contract as a soccer player so his mother and siblings can eventually get a house of their own.
- Jeremy from A Cruel God Reigns endures physical and sexual abuse from his step-father so that his mother can be happy in her new marriage. He even goes to the lengths of begging Greg not to tell Sandra when he threatens to expose them when Jeremy won't do exactly as he asks, as he fears that Sandra will attempt suicide (again.) In fact, if he hadn't done that, Sandra and Greg would not have gotten married in the first place. His role of being this trope is what causes Jeremy's Trauma Conga Line and Deus Angst Machina.
- Canada of Hetalia: Axis Powers is this during his time as England's colony, remaining loyal to him even when his brother America tries to get him to declare independence. He also takes up the role of comforting England through the emotional trauma and heartbreak he experiences after America's departure. He chews America out for causing the latter.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- Illumi, 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. 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).
- 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 & Bunny, who runs the family liquor store and occasionally takes care of Kaede while Kotetsu is out being a superhero.
- 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.
- Cosmic Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes left his economically depressed planet to find work so that he could send money home to support his family when he was fourteen. He only ended up a superhero because he helped save the life of one of the richest men in the galaxy on his way to search for work and was then offered a job as a hero. Originally this takes a tragic turn as his mother dies in a terrorist attack on the new neighborhood brought them to so they could be together again and his little brother dies trying to follow in his footsteps as a hero.
- In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld work The Black Sheep, a dutiful niece has to bail her confidence-trickster rogue of an uncle out of almost four thousand dollars' worth of trouble, knowing family needs dictate this. When he lands her with his unpaid gambling debts, her Assassin best friend intervenes but is asked not to kill him, if she can avoid this.
- In Uplifted, Rael'Jarva, growing up he was the model of what the future Quarian ideal would have become had the fleet not intervened in World War II.
- one day at a time: A vigilante family variant. Jason Todd did not want to be Batman but conceded to taking on the mantle and putting his own personal desires on hold after two of the other viable successors (Tim Drake and Cassandra Cain) refused and the last (Damian) was rejected on the basis of being too young. He only planned to be Batman until Damian was old enough, but after Tim and Damian's deaths a mere two years later, those plans had to be nixed so he could also run the family company and, later on, raise his three younger siblings (Helena Wayne, Terry McGinnis and Matthew McGinnis).
- George VI is the Dutiful Son in Bertie and Elizabeth. Interestingly, sympathy is with him rather than with his brother who comes off as rather a Royal Brat.
- Likewise in The King's Speech. It's clear neither of them wants to be king, but only one of them is willing to sacrifice his personal wishes to do what's expected of him.
- 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 his father the most.
- 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.)
- This scene is more of a reversal of the usual trope: Pablo left home to be a priest, leaving Tuco behind to take care of their parents. Unable to find legitimate work, Tuco became a bandit out of necessity. Or at least, that's his version.
- It's a Wonderful Life is unusual in that the "prodigal" son is actually an Ace Pilot war hero who idolizes his older brother. Largely owing to the fact that said elder brother saved his life when they were kids and made an absolute ton of personal sacrifices that allowed him to become a war hero in the first place.
- Alfred in Legends of the Fall always plays by the rules and does everything he can to try and make his father proud, but knows (and resents) that he will never measure up in daddy's esteem to Troubled, but Cute wild child Tristan. Interesting play on the trope as described above in that in the end, Alfred leaves the family farm while Tristan spends more time at home on the ranch.
- 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 Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke seems to think that Leia is this. Luke himself is actually this himself, to an extent; he really wants to leave home in A New Hope, he's legally an adult and could leave without his aunt and uncle's permission, but he just won't, to the point where in the radio drama he argues angrily with a friend who wants him to just cut and run. It takes tragedy to get him to go.
- In the 2011 film Warrior: What Tommy sees Brendan as.
- In the 1997 TV movie When Secrets Kill, Linda Emery returns to her hometown after her fourteen-year disappearance. Her mother's really glad to see her, but her brother Bill doesn't allow her to stay because he had to become a Tragic Dropout to take care of their parents.
- The Ur-Example is the elder son in the parable of the Prodigal Son as told by Jesus in The Bible.
- Jerin and several of his sisters in A Brother's Price are Dutiful to their sister Corelle's short-sighted rebelliousness. Jerin does get the spotlight, and Corelle's negligence has a definite impact on his life.
- 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.
- 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.
- In J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter:
- Regulus Black as recalled by his brother in Order of the Phoenix. Given that this is 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 and the Deathly Hallows. 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, especially the very chaotic twins. He even has a FaceHeel Turn, but returns home in Deathly Hallows just in time for the last battle.
- 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).
- Benjamin in Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves starts out as the dutiful son and a very promising Jehovah's Witness. This makes it all the more difficult for him to come out of the closet.
- 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.
- A Song of Ice and Fire has a few examples of this:
- Both Cersei and Tyrion Lannister see themselves like this, with both undergoing much sexism and ableism respectively in order to get where they are and further the Lannisters in hopes of earning their father Tywin's favor. Tywin, however, favours their brother Jaime, who ironically doesn't want to be Tywin's heir. Also ironically, Cersei is an incredibly incompetent ruler, inheriting her father's ruthlessness and contempt for the smallfolk, but without his political skill. Tyrion has his political skill but is despised by his father, and ends up murdering him.
- Stannis Baratheon considers himself this. This is especially in contrast to his brothers, who are far more charismatic but don't show themselves to be particularly good leaders. His older brother King Robert spent his 15 years as King drinking, eating, and whoring instead of ruling, while his younger brother Renly acts as a Yes-Man in Robert's Small Council, loves showing off, and after Robert's death tries to usurp the crown on flimsy grounds, claiming he'd be a better King despite never doing anything worthwhile, even planning to have Stannis killed. Stannis, though unsocial, has the less glamorous tasks and feels constantly unappreciated, but goes along with them anyway as he considers it his duty. Tragically, it's shown Stannis did love his brothers and wished for their appreciation, yet he is responsible for Renly's death due to Renly's intention to kill him.
- In contrast to willful Arianne and Flat Character Trystane, Quentyn Martell dutifully sees to his father's plan to the best of his abilities. Tragically due to being Wrong Genre Savvy, this ends up getting him killed by a dragon.
- 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. She probably would have been the good one anyway, but what she really wanted was the opportunity to choose, which Lily took from her.
- The Big Bang Theory: George Cooper, Jr. is revealed to have been the one who took care of the Cooper family after George, Sr.'s untimely death. The family never told Sheldon (who was away at college) about any of this, and it contributed to the two not speaking to each other in over a decade.
- Bob Hearts Abishola: Bob wanted to be a football commentator, but after his father died of a heart attack, he gave up that dream so he could take care of his grieving mother and twin siblings, as well as run the family business.
- The Borgias: 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 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.
- So Yi Jung, the Korean counterpart of Sojiroh Nichikado of the manga Boys over Flowers in the Boys Before Flowers K-Drama. Though the family is into traditional pottery instead of tea ceremony, and he's given a more sympathetic approach.
- Dinosaurs: Back when they were kids, Earl and his sister Pearl dreamed of being singers. However, for the sake of his sick mother, Earl set the dream aside and resented his sister for not doing the same.
- 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.
- Arthur Spooner in The King of Queens is an elderly Manchild on the outer edge of senility who drives daughter Carrie Heffernan to despair with continual unreasonable demands. Carrie, normally a woman who has no patience with idiots, leeches, or timewasters, feels she has no choice other than to take him in after he burns down his uninsured house. This causes frequent tensions with husband Doug, who tries to make his peace with the Basement-Dweller but is frequently exasperated by his father-in-law.
- Doug Hammond in Political Animals. While his drug-addicted gay brother and philandering father constantly draw the family into the tabloids and wreak havoc on his mother's political career, long-suffering Doug struggles to be the responsible one.
- David from Six Feet Under stayed to take care of his family's business while his brother Nathan went away not wanting to work with dead people.
- Picard's brother Robert in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Family".
- 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.
- Dean Winchester obeys his father John without question and berates Sam for questioning his orders. 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 Dean does resent Sam for getting to leave. Dean also manages to combine this with Troubled, but Cute.
- Michael is this Up to Eleven, as he continues to follow his absent father's orders millennia after God suddenly abandoned his sons and is determined to murder Lucifer not because of his plan to kill all humans, but because he thinks it's what God would have wanted. Dean's relationship with John and Sam mirrors the relationship between Michael, Lucifer, and God. As it is in heaven, so it shall be on earth and all that.
- Stefan from The Vampire Diaries. Part of the reason why Stefan was the favoured child with Giuseppe was that Stefan was a dutiful, responsible, obedient son.
- 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!"
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Ivan is beholden to his parents for all that they've done to help him with his genetic condition, and feels honour-bound to repay them for it.
- Marko's father is slipping into old age, and so Marko gave up his free time to instead take over duties in the family store to ease the workload, to the point that he doesn't have time to involve himself in anything he'd consider 'fun'.
- Gamlen paints himself like this in Dragon Age II because he stayed and took care of his and Leandra's elderly parents while Leandra spent years on the run because of her husband's status as an unregistered mage. Of course, this doesn't justify his later cheating her out of her inheritance, or his making deals that force her kids into indentured servitude for a year.
- Yoo Minho of ENIGMA: An Illusion Named Family has done his best to be The Reliable One and hold his family together following their father's death. Unfortunately, he regards most of his siblings as foolish and/or greedy and has been blocking them from receiving any inheritance money in order to keep them bound to their home, fostering resentment. He's also not very sympathetic to Minhyuk's Survivor Guilt, unintentionally compounding it with his demands to prove worthy of their father's Heroic Sacrifice.
- Final Fantasy:
- King Edgar, ruler of Figaro, is like this in Final Fantasy VI. After their father is murdered by 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.
- Marche's role as this in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance becomes a plot point late in the story combined with Sibling Rivalry and Because You Can Cope. Marche gets into a heated argument with his little brother Doned after Doned tries repeatedly to stop him from changing the world back to normal. Doned makes it clear he has no intention of going back, as he's wheelchair-bound in the real world and has regained the use of his legs in the changed Ivalice. He then accuses Marche of being selfish for not considering this, claiming that Marche "has everything" while he has nothing. Finally, at his breaking point, Marche reveals that he's jealous of Doned for getting all of their mother's attention, while he himself feels forced to quietly concede to Doned's needs and whims while sacrifice his own, eventually believing that their mother loves Doned more. This revelation finally convinces Doned that neither of their lives is perfect and that they need to go home and deal with reality.
- Hanzo from Overwatch; unfortunately, the family he's loyal to is a crime family, and his eventual confrontation with his less responsible brother, Genji, took a turn for the tragic.
- Dragon Quest V: Prince Wilbur takes over the Kingdom of Coburg after his stepfather's death and continues to follow his mother's orders to the letter, despite how evil they may be.
- 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."
- Furry Fight Chronicles shows that Saniko, Muko's older sister, has to deal with a depressed father, an irresponsible younger sister, and an absent mother while working overtime. It takes a toll on her emotional health.
- Given the nature of families in the series, BoJack Horseman has a few heavily deconstructed examples:
The stupid thing is, even now I still just want them to be proud of me and think I did good. Is that really stupid?
- Diane Nguyen returns without question to Boston upon the news of her father's death, in spite of the abuse thrown her way by practically everyone in her family. She organizes and plans the funeral to which no one shows up...or cares to even provide the body. This becomes especially frustrating for her since nobody tries to lend her a hand. To top it off, they insult her, her mother especially who clearly favors her incompetent brothers over her, the responsible sibling. It's implied she endures the abuse expecting to receive some sort of recognition of any kind despite knowing better.
- BoJack was molded by his mother Beatrice to be a successful star to make up for wrapping her into a loveless marriage. Oscillating between feelings of love and hate for her, BoJack would go to great lengths to impress her even after gaining independence and entering show business, inviting her to the first Horsin' Around taping regardless of his prism of experience. Even after that, BoJack has often searched for the kind of love missing in his life, which is the root of his crippling narcissism.
- Princess Carolyn used to be one as well, and the experiences clearly affected her mindset. Having to cover for your mother while she drank her weight in alcohol and cooking for a rich family who constantly yelled and flaunted their riches can create a sort of savior complex. To say nothing of the possible greed and envy it can create, sending someone into a self-centered orbit.
- Captain Peanutbutter is an interesting case. He and his brother PB get along just fine (PB being comfortable in Hollywood and Captain ditto in the Labrador Peninsula closer to their parents) but his sense of reliability and calmness make him a sort of grand figure of admiration for Mr. Peanutbutter. Such is the trust he has in him that the younger brother fails to consider that something might trouble Captain. AT ALL. A twisted spleen, for example.
- The Legend of Korra:
- An interesting case where the youngest sibling Tenzin considers himself this in preserving his father's legacy compared to his free-spirited sister Kya and Cloudcuckoolander brother Bumi. Kya, however, shoots back that she was the one to settle down and take care of their mother when their father died, so Tenzin's idea of himself as "the responsible one" of the three isn't true or fair.
- Lin Beifong is the dutiful elder daughter who follows in her mother's footsteps to become Chief of Police of Republic City. Her little half-sister Suyin meanwhile gets sent away to her grandparents after participating in a robbery and nearly destroying her mother's reputation, then spends the next decade or so traveling the world with pirates, the circus, etc. as a free spirit before settling down with her future husband to build her own city. Lin is a bit jealous and incredulous that Suyin did everything 'wrong', yet has a seemingly perfect life as an adult; whereas Lin was left by the major love of her life for a younger woman, and is left with the lingering feeling that she never really found what she was passionate about because she spent her whole life attempting in vain to impress her mother by trying to be Toph's carbon copy.
- This is the backstory for Mako and Bolin's father, San. San left his family in Ba Sing Se on bad terms after refusing to take over the family fruit stand from his father, instead choosing to make a new life for himself in Republic City. The responsibility of running the family business then fell to his brother Chow. Tragically, San never got the chance to return home on better terms, as he and his wife were murdered by a firebender in Republic City when Mako and Bolin were little.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Downplayed with Applejack's brother Big Mac. Both Big Mac and Applejack dedicate most of their time to running the family farm Sweet Apple Acres and looking after their grandmother and younger sister. However, Applejack is one of The Chosen Many and frequently gets called away on epic adventures and dangerous quests. Big Mac is the one who keeps the farm running while she's away.