The Scarlet Ibis

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorJunior High, 9th grade February 2002

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"The Scarlet Ibis" written by James Hurst is a story about two brothers and the triumphs they face. I feel that many people can relate to the feelings the narrator had towards his brother because in many cases we have all felt embarrassed by a loved one. Whether or not we would take it to an extreme to be cruel to them or even say we would like for them to be dead is a different matter. How many of us have hurt the feelings of others because of our own insecurities? This story takes place in the American South around 1918. We know this because technology was not as advanced as now that Doodle rode around in a Go-Cart. Also because he was delivered by his aunt; that shows that doctor's were not common like now days. It was between seasons, the passage states "summer was dead but autumn had not yet been born."

The setting plays a role in this story but it doesn't make or break it.

The characters in this story are the narrator, who is the older brother, and the younger brother, Doodle. These two brothers differ in many ways, for instance Doodle is disabled and "from the outset, a disappointment." He is an innocent, helpless young child. He becomes stronger as he grows; he eventually learns how to crawl and respond to hearing his name. Doodle grows mentally and physically throughout the story, he becomes capable of thinking like a normal person and also learns to walk.

In contrast, the narrator is a smart, athletic child who wanted a brother he could race and play with. The narrator is a cruel boy; in many parts of the story he says how he would be mean to Doodle. He even says, "I began to make plans to kill him." The narrator hated having Doodle cling to him and he felt he was a burden. He was ashamed to have a brother that was not normal like everybody else.

The story begins as Doodle was born and the first year of life for him was not hopeful. The goal throughout the story was to try to make Doodle as normal as possible. Starting with the first goal the narrator sets out to teach Doodle how to walk; he does this for selfish reasons. These brothers work very hard and Doodle does it"¦ he learns to walk. They wait to tell the family until Doodle's 6th birthday. At this point the narrator faces an internal conflict, "they did not know that Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother." Later the narrator decides to teach Doodle to "run, swim, climb trees, and to fight." Doodle was behind schedule on accomplishing this new goal, that's when they find a beautiful, extravagant red bird. This bird was weak and "uncoordinated"; he had become separated from the rest of the flock. He wasn't able to make it on his own and he dies. Doodle eventually fails at his new goal. On their way home on the last day of training a storm roles in and the brothers head home as fast as they can. Doodle, being weak, was not able to keep up with his brother's fast pace. The narrator, knowing of Doodles' limitations runs faster to be cruel. Doodle trips and falls; his brother doesn't go back to help him. The narrator, after some time, goes to look for Doodle and to his surprise Doodle had been bleeding from his fall. He calls out to Doodle and there is no response; Doodle, like the Scarlet Ibis, was too weak to make it on his own. Doodle is dead, and now the narrator regrets the cruel treatment he gave his brother.

I believe the author wrote this story with the intentions of making the reader think twice about the way they treat their loved ones. The cruelness of the narrator dominated him and his actions, just as he wrote, "there is within me (and with sadness I've seen it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love"¦"; it took the death of his brother to open his eyes to see that. I feel that he wants us to learn from his mistake, so that we will treat our family with love and not be worried about what people might think of us because of their defects or incapability's.

I feel that this story did have some irony. For instance, at the beginning of the story, no one expected Doodle to survive past the age of 3 months, yet he did and also learned to walk and talk also. After we see some of Doodle's triumphs, we start thinking how things are looking up for this kid, not expecting him to die"¦but then comes the Scarlet Ibis. Now, there is heavy foreshadowing of Doodle's death with the Scarlet Ibis dying, the weather being stormy and ugly, too harsh for Doodle or the bird to survive in on their own.

I would recommend this story because it is very sad and is an eye opener to our own actions towards family members. It opened my eyes to see that I also had taken for granted the love my cousins give me, I would always push them away and treat them mean. This is a very good story; I feel that to a certain point it has changed the way I see my loved ones and how I act towards them.