Compare and contrast the brother in “The Scarlet Ibis” and the doctor in “The Use of Force,” noting how the actions of both characters represent malice and cruelty.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Both Doodle's brother in "The Scarlet Ibis" and the doctor in "The Use of Force" are malicious in their treatment of children. Doodle's brother acts cruelly because he wants Doodle to be more like the other kids at school and wants to avoid any personal embarrassment. He calls Doodle a...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Both Doodle's brother in "The Scarlet Ibis" and the doctor in "The Use of Force" are malicious in their treatment of children. Doodle's brother acts cruelly because he wants Doodle to be more like the other kids at school and wants to avoid any personal embarrassment. He calls Doodle a "burden" and admits that Doodle's greatest fear is being left alone. During their first trips to Old Woman Swamp, Doodle begs his brother not to leave him, which is exactly what Brother does in the end. Furious that Doodle is a "failure," Brother runs away, leaving Doodle behind. As Doodle screams, "Brother, don't leave me!" the narrator races away, and a sense of "cruelty within [him] awakened."

Likewise, a sense of cruelty is awakened as the doctor finds himself unable to get Mathilda to open her mouth. The child clamps her mouth shut, and the doctor becomes determined to exert his own will over her, much as Doodle's brother had done. The doctor admits that he "had grown furious—at a child" but that he could not compose himself. Instead, he allows his emotions to steer his actions, and he continues to use incredible force even when he realizes that Mathilda is bleeding. The doctor finds that it is a "pleasure to attack her" and refuses to relent until he claims the victory.

The doctor is an adult, who should be able to control his emotions to a greater extent than Doodle's brother, who is still a child himself. While the doctor conveys no real sense of regret for his actions, Doodle's brother immediately recognizes the "childish spite" he has demonstrated toward his brother. He turns back to reconcile their relationship, while the adult doctor seemingly feels no such sense of remorse. In this way, the child narrator of "The Scarlet Ibis" demonstrates less malice than the adult narrator of "The Use of Force."

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on