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.

Physical Appearance and Discrimination in Literature

Many times we make assumptions about people without really even getting to know them. All three of these stories have a character in them who are treated unfairly because of their physical appearance. In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a lot of racial discrimination. The Tom Robinson case is a perfect example of this. He was first accused of something he obviously didn’t do, but then lost the case, all because of his race. Harper Lee is most widely known for her books To Kill a Mockingbird, and Go Set a Watchman.

‘The Scarlet Ibis’ is about a boy and his brother Doodle, who was born with a heart condition that makes any kind of physical labor difficult. They were caught in a storm one day, and the brother left Doodle alone in the storm out of anger that he would never be normal. Doodle couldn’t keep up and, unfortunately, overworked himself and died. James Hurst wrote many short stories and plays, but ‘The Scarlet Ibis’ was the most popular work of his.

‘The Tell Tale Heart’ is about someone who kills an old man that he lives with. He doesn’t really have a reason for killing him, other than he is convinced that the old man’s eye is evil. Edgar Allan Poe is best known for his poems and short stories and is thought to be the inventor of detective fiction. In all of these stories, someone is discriminated against because of what they look like. Harper Lee, James Hurst, and Edgar Allen Poe all illustrate the theme of how people make immediate assumptions of others based solely on their physical appearance using archetypes in characters and settings.

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

Main Ideas In The Scarlet Ibis

In the short story, The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst the narrator says But all of us must have something or someone to be proud of, and Doodle had become mine. This statement means that pride can be a very good thing that can lead you to the road that gives life or the road that leads to death. In the story, the narrator is embarrassed by Doodle because of his weak body, so he teaches him how to walk.

In the text, it says When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother of that age who couldn’t walk, so I set out to teach him.

This is related to how pride bears a good vine, pride causes the narrator to teach Doodle how to walk, and how. At the end of the story, Doodle is killed. In the text, it says, Doodle! Doodle! I cried shaking him, but there was no answer but the ropy rain. This relates to how pride also bears a bad vine. Is pride has caused him to work Doodle so hard that it killed him. At the beginning of the story the narrator hated doodle, in fact, he even thought about killing him.In the text, it saysI began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow.

The narrator’s life has been impacted ever since Doodle was born. Ever since he was born the narrator took him everywhere on the go-cart and spent a lot of time with him. From then his life was changed because he spent hours with him teaching him how to walk and do normal things kids do.

This reinforces the overarching theme because ever since Doodle was born the narrator was embarrassed at the fact that Doodle could not walk so pride caused him to teach Doodle how to walk, and how the narrator spent many hours with Doodle teaching him how to do normal things children do reinforces that pride bears a good vine, a vine to life. It also reinforces the theme that pride bears a bad vine. Once again the narrator taught Doodle many things such as how to walk, and he spent a lot of time with Doodle. Which that lead to the death of Doodle.

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.

An Overview Of The Scarlet Ibis

The scarlet ibis is a story of a young man, who tells the story from the first-person point of view. The story is about him and his brother Doodle. Doodle was an invalid kid who was supposed to die at a very young age.

The story is set up in North Carolina in the summer of 1918. Even though most of the story talks about the narrator and his brother it also talks about the narrator pride and how everyone had something to be proud of and he was Doodle The narrator knew from the beginning that his brother could not do what all normal kids could do. Doodle had a big impact in the narrator life from early on the story to the end of the story.

Many people thought that the narrator was only impacted when Doodle past away but they are wrong the narrator was impacted from early on. Doodle impacted the narrator in many ways because doodle was disabled the narrator had to carry around with doodle meaning that the narrator spent a lot of time with doodle. One thing that impacted the narrator the most was him teaching doodle how to walk it made the narrator have pride but pride isn’t always good. The biggest impact is when doodle dies the narrator feels that it’s his fault that doodle died which was true it was the narrator’s fault he left doodle back in the storm knowing that his brother could not survive that there impacted the narrator a lot it change him from what I can see.

A good example is when he gets on his knees and starts to cry. Stories told in the first person are easy to identify. The narrator will call him/herself “I” or “me.” In “The Scarlet Ibis” the first-person narrator is known only as Brother. Brother is what his brother, Doodle, called him. The story is his memory of their time together. Brother is a central narrator because he’s a main character in the story. Brother tells us what happened to himself and his brother. His actions play a major role in shaping the events of the story. Notice that we say Brother is the main character, not the main character. We think he and Doodle share the starring roles, but some readers feel strongly that Doodle steals the show.

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.

Works Cited:

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.