The Scarlet Ibis
The Symbolism of Death and Depression in The Scarlet Ibis
The mood that is being created at the beginning of the story is very dark and gloomy. Textual evidence to support my statement include the sentences: “It was in the clove of seasons, summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born, that the ibis lit in the bleeding tree.” (Hurst 1) and ‘The last graveyard flowers were blooming and their smell drifted across the cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softly the names our dead’ (1).
Both of these sentences include the term “dead” which often creates a very depressing mood. Brother, our narrator, is six years old when Doodle is born. Brother’s threat to Doodle’s life is initially seen as a fake threat because one would not expect a child Brother’s age to have the mens rea to kill a newborn child. This threat becomes real to the reader when Brother says he changes his mind about wanting to kill Doodle after he smiles at him. The irony of this part is that Brother’s plans to kill Doodle unwillingly become come true when he leaves him at the very end of the story. I believe the narrator chose not to reveal Brother’s name because, in the beginning of the story, we see Brother threatening Doodles life. This causes the reader to think that he is an emotionless older brother. As the story progresses, the reader begins to see a change in Brother’s character and begins to feel good about him, but at the very end he makes a mistake which results in Doodle’s death, thus, creating the same hatred in the reader’s perspective towards Brother. The narrator does not want to bring any more hatred upon him and chooses to not name “Brother”. This impacts the reader’s experience very significantly because the reader begins to wonder if they would have a different perspective about Brother if they had known his name. The reader would question whether they would be more emotionally attached to brother or not. When Doodle finally walks, Brother waltzes Aunt Nicey around the room for a brief joyful moment. Look at the line. What happens to end their joyful dance? Symbolically, what’s interesting about this supposedly light-hearted moment? When they are dancing, Aunt Nicey’s heavy ankle-high shoes came down on Brother’s big toe which could have ‘crippled him for life’ (Hurst 3).
Symbolically, this is very interesting because Brother had somewhat helped cure Doodle of his inability to walk. However, now Brother has just been afflicted with an issue that he says could have crippled him, this is both symbolic and ironic. Doodle is like the Scarlet Ibis. The physical features of the two were similar, the ibis’s feathers were described as a scarlet red colour and the author describes Doodle’s body as, ‘…a tiny body which was red’ (Hurst 1). The Scarlet Ibis died due to illness. Doodle, at the end of the story, primarily dies due to his physical incapabilities (illness). Lastly, they both leave a message in the end after their deaths. The Scarlet Ibis showed Doodle what death looks like, and Doodle showed his brother all of the things he had done wrong.By connecting the bird and Doodle, the author was able to provide the reader a reason for Doodle’s death. The bird had no control over its death and neither did Doodle, they were both accidents. I believe that Doodle was beginning to fall very ill which eventually caused his death. Examples of this include: ‘ As we slipped through dog days, Doodle began to look feverish, and Mama felt his forehead, asking him if he felt ill.
At night he didn’t sleep well, and sometimes he had nightmares, crying out until I touched him and said, ‘Wake up, Doodle. Wake up” (Hurst, 4) and “Doodle said he was too tired to swim’ (Hurst,6). Brother played a very large role in Doodle’s death. Brother made Doodle run at the end of the story and because Doodle was very sick, running may have been a very difficult task for him to perform and make him even weaker than before. This line explains Brother’s feelings towards Doodle. Brother is stating that the cruelty inside of him is initially brought from love. This means that from family, or “the stream of love”, some sort of brutality is within him. He believes that by blood, or family, there is the origin of ‘destruction’ which causes him to have very harsh thoughts for Doodle. I treat my family members rudely when I’m very stressed. I put all my frustration on them and say very mean things to them or get annoyed by them. I think we treat strangers better than we treat our own loved ones because we think that our family members are supposed to love us even if we’re rude to them and with strangers we are worried about their opinion of us so we chose to treat them with more respect.
Role Of Colors in Of Mice And Men And The Scarlet Ibis
“The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.” These valuable words, once said by Hans Hofmann, are an excellent explanation as to why authors apply colors to their literature. The authors of the two classics, Of Mice and Men and The Scarlet Ibis, both use color to create a significant mood. In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, a man named George carries the responsibility of taking care of Lennie, a mentally disabled man that he travels with. Due to Lennie’s simple-mindedness, he gets himself into an irreversible situation in which George decides to kill Lennie to prevent further suffering. In James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis, the narrator tells the story of his brother, Doodle, who was born with a physical disability. The narrator felt embarrassed with having to take responsibility for his “abnormal” brother, and the narrator ends up leaving Doodle behind to die because of the narrator’s passion and pride. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses cool colors to promote a tranquil and calm mood, while Hurst uses a warm color scheme in The Scarlet Ibis to create a vivid and emotional mood. However, the color gold is used in both works of literature to promote perfection and strength.
Cool colors, specifically green, create a placid mood in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. In the beginning of the novel, Steinbeck describes the scenery of the area: “…the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green…on the valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green…” Steinbeck uses the introduction of the story to foreshadow the overall emotions of the text, which reflect the simplicity of life. The quote communicates a very tranquil mood, and the color green shows the natural landscape. Towards the end of the novel, Steinbeck nearly repeats the details used in the landscape described during the beginning of the story: “The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late afternoon…And row on row of tiny wind waves flowed up the pool’s green surface.” In order to bring the novel full circle, Steinbeck duplicates the feel of the lush, tranquil landscape that is expressed in the beginning of the story. Overall, Of Mice and Men creates a peaceful mood by using cool colors, namely natural greens.
While Of Mice and Men creates a peaceful mood by using cool colors, The Scarlet Ibis creates a nearly opposite mood by using green’s complementary color; James Hurst applies warm colors, particularly red, to create a passionate, emotional mood. When the narrator begins to speak about his brother, Doodle’s “little mahogany coffin,” the rich red color is introduced into the story, and it begins to foreshadow the emotional, passionate climax of the story. Also, in the end of the short story, a reference of the same color is used to complete the piece. When Doodle is dying, the author describes that “he had been bleeding from the mouth, and his neck and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red.” Obviously, the red describes Doodle’s blood, but the color is also included to express the passion throughout the story. The use of the color creates powerful imagery and gives the story an overall emotional mood.
In Of Mice and Men, cool colors are used to represent tranquility and peace, while different tones of red are used in The Scarlet Ibis to create a sense of passion. Yet, an intermediate color is used in both stories to create a similar feeling. The color gold is used in both Of Mice and Men and The Scarlet Ibis to promote the sense of perfection and beauty. In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, when the scenery is being introduced at the beginning of the novel, it’s described that “the water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool…the golden foothill slopes curve up…” The yellow and gold tones in the description demonstrate a beautiful and perfect mood. The color gold is also used in The Scarlet Ibis to create imagery and a strong feeling. When one of Doodle’s favorite lies states that “Peter wore a golden robe that glittered so brightly that when he walked through the sunflowers they turned away from the sun to face him.” Expressed through the color gold, this lie represents Doodle‘s wish to be physically able to do normal things. This is beautiful and perfect in his eyes because his disability prevents him from doing so.
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men promotes a tranquil mood by expressing the color green, while Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis uses red to imply a passionate, emotional mood. However, both works of literature use the color gold to blend a sense of perfection and beauty into their moods. In all kinds of different types of art, colors are used to create a specific mood. In the words of Pablo Picasso, this is simply because “colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”
Breathtaking Events in The Scarlet Ibis
The short story, “Scarlet Ibis,” by James Hurst is a heart shattering story built with detail far more superior than other stories which creates a virtual representation in your mind. In the Scarlet Ibis, a child – unlike others – was born on one particular dawnbreak with birth defects and extremely cautious health conditions that resulted in the belief of a short lifespan. His brother was extremely embarrassed to have a weak and irregular brother, so he pushed his younger brother, Doodle, to learn how to walk and fit in with what he wants and to become a normal individual. However, he was pushed over the limits and it resulted in many consequences. This short story is a good story because it’s very descriptive, hurtfully emotional, and has a very grand and believable resolution. These characteristics make the story build quickly and become very successful.
Initially, the story pronounces its true dominance in its very own factor in description and symbolization. The words expressed results in a virtual reality world that cannot be compared with most short stories. “The flower garden was stained with rotting brown magnolia petals and ironweed grew rank amid the purple phlox.” The physical description of the flower garden contained not only what was there, but the location of the diverse types of plants in correspondence to the external setting of the story. In addition, even the flashbacks are described in such a professional way it seems as it were present and the reader being put in that exact period of time. “I pulled the go-cart through the saw-tooth fern, down into the green dimness where the palmetto fronds whispered by the stream.” The exaggerated view of the journey through the previous periods of time is very plentiful of exclamated objects which emphasize the quality of this short story. Furthermore, each time to setting changes or even a miniscule change to the surrounding environment – it is processed and described passionately. “The afternoon, it roared back out of the west, blew the fallen oaks around, snapping their roots and tearing them out of the Earth like a hawk at the entrails of a chicken.” The swift small change in the setting such as a time alteration is described as a roaring wind being so strong it can only be compared by a predator catching a prey swiftly.
Afterward, the story evolves over time and brings pleasant sparks to each individual. This makes the short story unimaginably emotional and cause the reader to have sympathy towards each character being put under harsh environments. While Brother left Doodle alone near his Paris green casket at where he was believably to be buried, Doodle became violently frightened at the lonliness to come and the visit of where Death was to meet him. “Doodle was frightened of being left. ‘Don’t leave me, Brother!’ he cried.” In this situation, Doodle was so scared of being alone that it symbolizes the fact that he is very dependent of his brother. It elaborates that Doodle is not fierce and is very fragile in comparison to others. Additionally, the most heartbreaking event occurs after Brother makes a very selfish choice that as a consequence results in guilt and permanent regret. “I lay there crying, sheltering my scarlet ibis from the heresy of the rain.” Brother had regret his decision to leave Doodle even though he knew he was weak and dependent of him. After all, he was only a “scarlet ibis” in need of help after his call of distress, “Don’t leave me!”
Finally, as the story progresses it and goes in advance and is approaching the resolution or denouement, it hits exact points which help end off the story after the dramatic and emotional events. “As I waited, I peered through the downpour, but no one came.” In context, after Brother left Doodle to force him to catch up, and pushing him over his limits he waited and waited for Doodle to come only for the rain to drown the roads and the entire forest. The reader can foreshadow that something bad is going to occur. In this short story, the resolution and climax is paired together that export a drop in the entire story flow, and then leave the reader paralyzed to retrace what had just occurred. This is exactly the reader feels after foreshadowing the previous text and to proceed further in this sacred short story. “He had been bleeding from his mouth, and his neck and his front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red.” This shows that Doodle had been suffering and is at a critical state after being pressured, and forcefully pushed over his weak heart’s limits. Death had drown him and Brother had lost Doodle just like the scarlet ibis loss to battle with the storm.
In conclusion, the short story, “Scarlet Ibis,” by James Hurst is a good story because it’s very descriptive, hurtfully emotional, and has a very grand and believable resolution. These characteristics make the story build quickly and become very successful. The absolute breathtaking events that occur along with the descriptive and symbolic text excite the reader in such an unusual way that no other short story can reproduce. The elastic flow of the story energizes the story in such a way that the reader cannot be mentally forced to pause the story.
“The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst
The Scarlet Ibis is a heartbreaking story by James Hurst about two brothers; one brother is physically fit (narrator), while the other is physically disabled (Doodle). The story focuses on the idea that the older brother’s greediness, arrogance, and self-consciousness led to the death of his younger brother. To help us draw and anticipate Doodle’s tragic and painful death, Hurst uses an impressive style and symbolism throughout the story.
One of the great styles Hurst used, in order to grab the reader’s attention and portray doodle’s death, was foreshadowing. From the first paragraph “The last graveyard flowers were blooming, and their smell drifted across the cotton field and through every room of our house, speaking softly the names of our dead”, to the death of the ibis “At that moment the bird began to flutter, but the wings were uncoordinated, and amid much flapping and a spray of flying feathers, it tumbled down, bumping through the limbs of the bleeding tree and landing at our feet with a thud. Its long, graceful neck jerked twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still. A white veil came over the eyes, and the long white beak unhinged. Its legs were crossed and its claw like feet was delicately curved at rest. Even death did not mar its grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken vase of red flowers”, foreshadows Doodle’s death.
In addition to foreshadowing, another striking style Hurst used in the story is the excessive use of various figurative languages. He used simile “Keeping a nice secret is very hard to do, like holding your breath”, metaphor “There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle”, hyperbole “We danced together quite well until she came down on my big toe with her brogans, hurting me so badly I thought I was crippled for life”, personification “ Hope no longer hid in the dark palmetto thicket but perched like a cardinal in the lacy toothbrush tree, brilliantly visible” and imagery “When we reached Horsehead Landing, lightning was playing across half the sky and thunder roared out, hiding even the sound of the sea”.
The usage of figurative language created a clear image of everything in the story. Humor is added to the story by simile, metaphor, and hyperbole, the sense of closeness to the reader and objects action is added by personification, and the clear vision of the character or setting is added by imagery. To better illustrate the reader and portray the death of Doodle, Hurst uses symbolism. He took the scarlet ibis bird as a symbol for Doodle. They have several similarities and shared characteristics.“It lives in the tropics—South America to Florida. A storm must have brought it here” it shows how the bird is immigrant and not supposed to be here; As Doodle exactly, he is different from the other -physically disabled. Doodle also shares the same characteristics with the ibis that both of them shouldn’t be alive by now. Another characteristic shared between them is that what lead them to their tragic death was the overcome many problems and challenges they have faced in their lives.
Another common thing between them is the way they died, “He was sitting on the ground, his face buried in his arms, which were resting on his drawn-up knees.” And ”He lay very awkwardly, with his head thrown far back, making his vermilion neck appear unusually long and slim. His little legs, bent sharply at the knees, had never before seemed so fragile, so thin.” shows exactly how the narrator took the ibis as a symbol for Doodle; he gave him the same classification as he did when the ibis died, from the red face to the neck to way of sitting even the storm was the reason why both them died. To conclude, this story is very effective, great, impressive, and emotional as it uses multiple and different tools that tug the readers’ heart string. One is the style that showed us how the tragic Doodle’s death was. And symbolism, by showing how the ibis bird and Doodle shared the same characteristics.
James Hurst’s story “The Scarlet Ibis”
It is said that you never really appreciate something fully until it is gone. This is shown in James Hurst’s story, “The Scarlet Ibis”. This story takes place in the Deep South after World War II, and is told through the eyes of “Brother”, one of Hurst’s fictional characters. Brother tells the story of his invalid younger brother, Doodle. In “The Scarlet Ibis” normality comes with a price. Brother’s pride both helps and hurts Doodle. Brother is ashamed of Doodle’s weaknesses.
He always wished for a normal brother: “it was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who possibly was not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow” [Pg. 317]. This sentence reveals that Brother didn’t try to put in time to shape Doodle into the brother he wanted. Instead, the only thing he did was to make plans to kill Doodle so that he wouldn’t have an invalid brother.
“He was a burden in many ways. The doctor had said that he mustn’t get too excited, too hot, too cold, or too tired, and that he must always be treated gently. A long list of don’ts went with him, all of which I ignored once we got out of the house. To discourage him coming with me, I’d run with him across the ends of the cotton rows and careen him around corners on two wheels. Sometimes I accidently turned him over, but he never told Mama” [Pg. 317]. We can see from this excerpt that Doodle looks up to Brother and enjoys spending time with him, however Brother resents being burdened by Doodle and attempts to flip the go-kart Doodle is being transported in so that he will not be burdened by his company when he goes on outdoor excursions. “This is within me (and with sadness I have watched it n others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle.
One day I took him up to the barn loft and showed him his casket, telling him how we all had believed he would die. It was covered with a film of paris green, sprinkled to kill the rats and screech owls, which had built a nest inside it. Doodle studied the mahogany box for a long time, then said, “It’s not mine”, “It is”, I said. “And before I’ll help you down from the loft, you’re going to have to touch it [Pg. 318]. This proves that Brother pressurizes Doodle into doing things that Doodle would otherwise not do. An example of this is how Brother uses Doodle’s fear of the attic to force him to touch the coffin, a coffin that had been made for Doodle himself, as everyone predicted he would not live very long. Brother’s sometimes bullying behavior affected doodle both physically and emotionally.
Brother behavior toward Doodle is inconsistent however and he does many good things, too. He helps Doodle become normal and to be able to do things that people thought were impossible for Doodle to do. “When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother of that age that couldn’t walk, so I set out to teach him” [Pg. 318]. This reveals that Brother has compassion for Doodle helping him become the best he can be. Instead of just hiding Doodle at home, which would have been more convenient for him to do, he takes him out in the community. “Once I had succeeded in teaching Doodle to walk, I began to believe in my own infallibility and I prepared a terrific development program for him, unknown to mama and Daddy, of course. I would teach him to run, to swim, to climb trees and to fight, he, too, now believed in my infallibility, so we set the deadline for these accomplishments less than a year away, when, it had been decided, Doodle would start school” [Pg. 320].
This teaches us that Brother wants to aid Doodle in learning and living his life to the fullest possible extent, despite not having the physical and mental abilities that we take for granted. “After we had drifted a long way, I put the oars in place and Doodle row back against the tide” [Pg. 322] Brother wants to push Doodle and make him do something, which even by normal standards, would be challenging but even more difficult for Doodle because of his disabilities. These actions show a kinder side to Brother, a side that wishes to help and nurture his brother. Brother’s actions towards doodle are conflicting. Was it better for Doodle to live a short more adventurous life, or was it better for Doodle just to stay at home and never experience life to the fullest.
Short Review Of The Scarlet Ibis
This story was about a kid who was born with disabilities where he could not walk. He was having a really sad life and he had a brother older than him. His brother was mad and selfish for his own reasons The narrator of ‘The Scarlet Ibis’ is a kid who is never been named. We only know that he lives in a country, near a old swamp that they love to go to and the ocean, and that he’s six when his little brother is born. Now, the kid brother, William Armstrong, is born with some disabilities.
They fear that his mind is very damaged just like his body they say. His family is so down on the little guy that they built a kid-sized coffin for him because they thought he was going to die, just, you know, planning ahead.Older brother has high hopes that William will fulfill his fantasies of a ball-throwing, rope-jumping, swamp-swimming, boat-rowing, sporty little brother. However, while Doodle’s body doesn’t work all that well, the kid turns out to have a very nice brain.
So, his first plan was to smother his brother with a pillow because he was so selfish. But he is not doing that anymore, he decides to keep him around. That’s what you call brotherly love! Sometimes our narrator is really sweet to Doodle, like when he encourages Doodle to keep trying until he can at some point stand on his own, like when he drags Doodle to the barn where the family has stowed the tiny coffin they had built for him. The sweet older brother won’t let Doodle leave until he touches his own coffin.
Doodle grows up under the on and off love of his brother, learns to walk, and impresses the family with a natural knack for telling stories. He’s an imaginative, sensitive child, but our lovely narrator will be happy enough with nothing less than his athletic brother. When Doodle gets the ok to attend the school for the first surprising time, his brother plans on a plan to get Doodle’s fitness up to his standards so he won’t be an embarrassment to him in the schoolyard. The narrator has his little brother trying to do all these things that he can’t even do yet like climb ropes, row boats, and swim and all these other things
My Reflection On The Scarlet Ibis
I did not know then that pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death (Hurst 3).
This quote said by the narrator shows how many memories it brings back from Doodle. This is stated by the narrator also because he wants to say that pride is brought to be proud of something that is done or by someone, but the cause can be two, which is by doing a substance that is unacceptable or a substance that is with quality.
Jame Hurst’s in The Scarlet Ibis is a short story which shows how one brother teaches his disabled brother to , but at the end of the story, it shows how the narrator let his pride force him into sacrificing the ones that he loves and shows guilt by leaving his brother in the storm to die. When the narrator and Doodle went to the Horsehead Landing and there was a storm. Doodle screams for his brother to not leave him, but his brother does not listen. Doodle tells his brother this when his brother left him behind the storm because the narrator thought Doodle failed his expectations. The narrator left his brother because he was embarrassed by him, but when he does not hear Doodle’s screams anymore, he shows worry that something might have happened to him. The quote also represents that he left his brother in the storm because he wanted his brother to overcome his fear, but with the cause of his brother’s death. The narrator feels embarrassment by his brother, but what he does, he does not see the consequences it will cause him and the regret.
James Hurst represents the idea of pride and guilt which pushes the narrator to cause his brother harm in order to have someone play with him. Pride is what inspires people to accomplish acceptable points, and yet pride also causes people to behave foolishly, and also the guilt that is shown by the narrator for what has happened to Doodle.
For example, the narrator shows his pride by stating, when he constantly has been pushing Doodle to do things that he can not and is incapable of doing, but did it for his own selfish reasons. The doctor had given warnings of not making Doodle do any physical movements, but the narrator did not even listen to any of the instructions given by the doctor.
The doctor has told the parents to not turn Doodle on his stomach because the narrator states , The doctor said that with his weakheart the strain would probably kill him, but it didn’t (Hurst 1).
This demonstrates pride because the narrator does the exact opposite of what was told by the doctor and does not even stop him from doing what he does to Doodle.
For example, the narrator did not once even care because he always thought of his brother as a burden and embarrassment to him, so the narrator would do the opposite of what he was told to his brother. When Doodle was taken care by his brother, he would make Doodle do more of physical movements and not listen to the doctors.
The narrator would even state, To discourage his coming with me I’d run with him across the end of the cotton rows and careen him around corners on two wheels. Sometimes I accidentally turned him over (Hurst 2).
This illustrates how reckless and selfish the narrator was towards Doodle and he uses his pride to get his brother to run and play because he only wanted someone to play with him.
For example, the narrator felt guilt when he forced Doodle to open his own casket and since Doodle’s death was shocking it adds more memories to the narrator of guilt and most of all is that he thinks he did something wrong.
The narrator feels guilt when he says He was born when I was six and was, from the outset, a disappointment (Hurst 2).
This words he uses for his brother illustrates that the narrator knew that his brother has a disability and it was harsh of the narrator to say this, but if Doodle has been living a longer life than the brother might’ve seen his mistakes.
For example, the narrator feels guilt when he left Doodle behind the storm. When he left Doodle behind he did not think of any his consequences. The narrator states, Doodle was frightened of being left (Hurst 6). The narrator knew that Doodle has always feared of being alone, but it shows that he might of have felt guilty because for leaving Doodle back and the cause of Doodle’s death.For example, the narrator feels guilt when he has said that his brother was a disappointment and an embarrassment. He was born when I was six and was, from the outset, a disappointment (Hurst 1).
The narrator knew or felt that he was to harsh on his brother with his words, but he feels guilty because of every thought he has had of Doodle. Guilt is shown how it influences many remember their lives and it shows how it impacts Doodle’s live. Overall pride and guilt is shown in the Scarlet Ibis because the narrator has let his pride get over himself that he has lost his brother and now feels the pain of losing someone he has loved, but never has shown it.
Brotherly Injury: The Scarlet Ibis
Being selfishly consumed with shame and pride over a loved one can cause one to treat that beloved individual in cruel ways. In James Hurst’s fictitious short story “The Scarlet Ibis,” the narrator realizes exactly these truths through brutal experience. The story is a flashback told in the antagonist’s point of view; it is about a boy whose internal conflicts toward his brother, Doodle, motivated him to push his brother until he broke. Pride, love, and shame battle with the narrator’s desire to help Doodle: his love encourages the need to help, but he ultimately gives way to the cruelty that killed his brother.
The narrator urges Doodle past his physical boundaries due to the shame he felt in Doodle’s failures, and because of his selfish desire for a brother who was normal. But more deeply, the narrator was afraid of what other people would think of him when he was in Doodle’s company. He was ashamed of his sweet, guileless, and jovial brother, who looked up to him (Brother) and did not even have the ability to walk. “It was bad enough having an invalid brother…I was ashamed of having a crippled brother” (146, 149). Because he was ashamed of Doodle, the narrator tried to transform him into something he could be proud of. He pushed him to a breaking point, since he was selfishly embarrassed. Greed was also a factor in this situation. The narrator yearned for a brother he could run and play with, someone like himself. Doodle, however, was the opposite. “I wanted more than anything else…someone to box with, someone to perch with in the top fork of the great pine behind the barn. I wanted a brother” (143). Since Doodle was not the brother the narrator had in mind, he decided he would “fix” him. The narrator’s longing for an ordinary sibling, combined with with the shame he felt toward Doodle, resulted in him trying to force Doodle to be someone he was not.
The narrator’s sense of pride also drove Doodle to do things that were not in his best interest. The narrator states that he needed something to be proud of, and that Doodle was, potentially, it. Brother would galvanize Doodle into doing things to make him stronger, make him an object of pride: “…all of us must have something or someone to be proud of, and Doodle had become mine” (147). It is natural to be proud of people we care about, but an overabundance of pride can be dangerous to them if you force them into things. After Doodle learned to walk with the narrator’s help, Brother felt something inside his chest that would greatly affect both his and Doodle’s life forever: pride. After that moment, he started thinking he was invincible, that he would succeed at everything. “I began to believe in my own infallibility…I would teach him to run, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight” (150). The narrator felt his first burst of pride, and this glorious feeling is addicting to those who are not humble. Brother needed more of it, this emotion that made him feel powerful and flawless. To have pride wash over him again, he must push Doodle even harder.
However heartlessly the narrator finally acts toward Doodle, there is love that can be discerned in his actions. The narrator himself describes this peculiar way of loving Doodle. Inside all of us is the ability to hurt those we love, and Brother’s ability is just more profound. “There is within me…a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love…and at times I was mean to Doodle” (146). The narrator does have affection for Doodle, even though there seem to be patches of sadism in his strange fondness. Even though Brother may be ashamed of Doodle, his fears are not only for himself: he is afraid for Doodle. People would have been cruel to Doodle at school since he was different, and Brother doesn’t want that. When Doodle dies, the narrator falls to his knees and weeps for his dead brother, knowing it was his doing. “I threw my body to the earth above his…I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of the rain” (157). The narrator has rarely openly expressed his love for Doodle, but it bursts though as his brother’s death registers. Brother obviously regrets never showing Doodle more warmth and mercy, and the guilt will haunt him for the test of his life. It may have seemed hidden, but the narrator sincerely cared for Doodle, and his love for his brother additionally pushed Doodle to work harder.
Brother never realized how intensely he had pushed Doodle until it was much too late. His shame and pride overtook his ability to reason, they rooted themselves into his brain and heart. When he finally drove these impulses away, his brother lay broken and lifeless. The narrator’s deplorable pride, which made him feel invincible, his shameful, selfish desire for a normal brother, and his sincere love and concern all contributed to him causing an end to Doodle’s life. Brother’s experiences can serve as a warning to not let your personal desires or emotions overwhelm how you behave toward those who have a special place in your heart.
Hurst, James. “The Scarlet Ibis.” Holt Literature and Language Arts. Kylene Beers and Carol Jago,st al. Austin, Texas: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 2009. 140-159. Print.
Character Comparison Essay: “The Scarlet Ibis” and “Thank You Ma’am”
Characters might seem different at a glance, but if you pay enough attention you can see how alike they are. People can look different based on perspective. A thief from the city with nothing and a farm boy from the country with a decent life have nothing in common on the surface, yet look a little deeper and you’ll see the truth. Roger, from James Hurst’s “Thank You, Ma’am” and Doodle’s older brother from Langston Hughes’ “The Scarlet Ibis” are more similar than they are different, providing portraits of characters who exhibit once-hidden sensitivities.
Doodle’s brother and Roger are both willing to do selfish things in the beginnings of their stories to get what they want. For example, Roger was trying to steal from Mrs. Jones to pay for a pair of shoes. Not everyone, even if they were in Roger’s situation, would resort to stealing. Roger chooses to steal instead of working hard and finding a job, and it proves that he can be selfish and is willing to do the wrong thing. Doodle’s brother says, “When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother that age who couldn’t walk, so I set out to teach him”(Hurst 2). When Doodle’s older brother sets out to teach Doodle to walk, though he is doing something nice, he has entirely selfish reasons for doing so. He only wanted to teach Doodle so that he wouldn’t have to be embarrassed anymore. Even before that Doodle’s brother shows how selfish he is when he says “But having one who was possibly not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him” (Hearst 1). The narrator actually thought about killing his brother, just because he thought Doodle wouldn’t be able to play with him. Even though he was only six at the time, and didn’t fully understand the meaning of life, it’s still amazingly selfish to want to take away a human life because it didn’t live up to his expectations. Both Doodle’s brother and Roger started out with selfish intentions.
Later in the two stories, it became clear that though both Roger and Doodle’s older brother start out acting selfishly they both later regret their actions. Doodle’s brother is angry and embarrassed when he runs away from Doodle, leaving his little brother alone in the rain. He soon feels guilty and calls out for Doodle only to find him dead. He feels responsible for his little brother’s death and feels immensely guilty and sad. He is still full of guilt even as an adult. He can remember everything from that summer and everything about Doodle so clearly because of that. Roger also later regrets his choice to try and steal Mrs. Jones’ purse. Throughout the story, he begins to regret his actions and by the end, he’s thanking her. The story says, “The boy wanted to say something else other than “Thank you ma’am”’ (Hughes 4). Roger feels like he owes her, more than just a thank you for being kind to him when he tried to steal from her so clearly he regrets what he’s done. Once again, the two act similarly.
Finally, both characters have important events in their childhood that they remember for a long time. It can be seen that Roger has been changed by Mrs. Jones when he chooses not to run from her house. He has become someone who wants to own up for his mistakes. The story also mentions that Roger never saw Mrs. Jones again, which is to imply that he looked for her. He wanted to find a better way to thank her, but never found her, and something like that sticks with a person. The lesson he learned that day and the memory of Mrs. Jones was probably remembered as a turning point in Roger’s life. A similar effect is shown on Doodle’s older brother. Doodle’s older brother narrates the story using tons of detail because his memories of that part of his life, and of Doodle are still fresh in his mind. It’s like that summer, who knows how many years ago, happened yesterday for Doodle’s brother. The memory of his brother is so important to him that it stays with him no matter how many years pass. Roger and the brother’s mistakes seem to haunt them throughout their lives.
While Roger from “Thank You M’am” and Doodle’s brother from “The Scarlet Ibis” may seem different at first, look closer and they are more alike than you might think. They were both boys who made mistakes, regretted, and in the end, remembered. When people do something wrong, they learn from it, and that’s what these two really have in common.