Is the characterization of the narrator of "The Scarlet Ibis" direct or indirect?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Authors develop and reveal character in a number of ways, most of which are indirect:

  1. through a physical description of the character
  2. through the character's actions
  3. through the thoughts, feelings, and speeches of a character
  4. through the comments and reactions of other characters

The only method of direct characterization is 

  1. through direct statements giving the writer's opinion of the character. As an illustration of this, consider Guy de Maupassant's opening line about his character Mathilde Loisel in "The Necklace":

She was one of those pretty and charming girls, born as if by an accident of fate, into a family of clerks.


In James Hurst's "The Scarlet Ibis," the characterization of the narrator is indirect. For the most part, the reader learns about the brother through his (3) thoughts, feelings, and remarks and conversations. For instance, in the exposition of the story, he describes his brother Doodle as "the craziest brother a boy ever had," and "he was a burden in many ways." Then, he describes himself,

I thought myself pretty smart at many things, like holding my breath, running, jumping, or climbing vines....I want more than anything else someone to race to Horseshoe Landing, someone to box with, and someone to perch with in the top fork of the great pine....I wanted a brother.

He also describes himself as having "a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love...."

Further in the narrative, the character of the narrator is developed through a conversation with his family (4), who react to him. For example, after Doodle learns to walk, his father asks the brother why he is crying, "What are you crying for?" Yet another indirect method of characterization used with the narrator is (2) through his actions. Certainly, at the end of the story as the brother forces Doodle to run and harms him:

I ran as fast as I could, leaving him far behind with a wall of rain dividing us....Soon I could hear his voice no more. 
I hadn't run too far before I became tired, and the flood of childish spite evanesced as well....

The only indirect method of characterization that is not used in this story is (1) which gives a physical description of the narrator.