Describe the state of mind or physical characteristics of how the term paralyzed is used in the story "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst.

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price7781 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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There are several instances of symbolic and physical paralysis in the story, “The Scarlet Ibis”.  The first example is of physical paralysis experienced by Doodle.  Doodle was born unable to move.  The most he could do is raise his head at the age of two.  Eventually, he is physically able to crawl and walk, but it was with great effort that he was able to accomplish it.  Doodle was physically weak, but somehow fought through his physical disabilities to do his best. 

Unfortunately, Doodle’s best did not satisfy Brother.  Brother’s unrealistic expectations paralyzes   Brother mentally and causes him to obsess over the physical abilities of Doodle.  His pride to make Doodle like everyone else takes over his life, and he is unable to reconcile the reality of who Doodle really is and what he can and can’t do.  It is like Brother is frozen in an obsession to change Doodle so Doodle can run, jump, and play with him like a normal child.  At the end, Brother’s frustration in not being able to teach Doodle how to swim and climb a rope causes him to leave Doodle behind in a terrible storm.  If Brother had accepted Doodle for who he was, perhaps Brother wouldn’t have gone to the extremes he did to change Doodle.

A time that the actual word, “paralyzed” is used in story is in the scene where Brother makes Doodle touch the casket that was built for Doodle when everyone expected him to die.  Doodle is unable to do it, and he stands frozen in place until Brother carries him out of the barn.   It is here that fear paralyzes Doodle both physically and mentally. 

There are several examples of paralysis in the story that are physical or caused by an obsession that guides Brother’s decisions about Doodle. 

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