What are some examples of the different conflicts in the story "The Scarlet Ibis"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In James Hurst's "The Scarlet Ibis," while there are both internal and external conflicts, the main conflicts are within the narrator.

  • (Internal) At six years old, when his brother is born, the narrator tells the reader that from the first, Doodle was "a disappointment." When he learns that Doodle is possibly mentally and physically challenged, the narrator begins his plan to kill his brother; however, his plans are soon discarded after Doodle smiles at him through the posts of the bed.
  • (External) "He was a burden in many ways." As his brother, the narrator realizes that he must take Doodle with him, so he shares "the only beauty I knew," Old Woman Swamp. When Doodle cries because of the beauty of nature there, the narrator is won over, and he takes Doodle daily to the swamp.
  • (Internal) The narrator is cruel to Doodle. 

There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction....

One day the brother shows Doodle the small coffin made for him that is now covered with dust and a haunt of rats and a screech owl. When the brother threatens to leave Doodle in the bar, he cries out. "Don't leave me."

  • (External) The brother tries to force Doodle to "be normal." Imposing his will upon his brother, the narrator coerces Doodle into learning to walk.
  • (Internal) Once he has succeeded in getting Doodle to walk, the brother has a false sense of confidence, believing in his own "infallibility." After making Doodle row a boat back to shore, the brother runs from him in the rain. The strain on Doodle's heart as he tries to catch up is too great, and Doodle dies because of the brother's pride.
pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Man vs. Man - Brother vs Doodle  Brother wanted a healthy little brother to play with, not the handicapped Doodle.

Man vs. Himself - Brother struggles with himself, especially at the end when he is stricken with grief over his brother's death.

Man vs. Nature - The Scarlet Ibis dies and only Doodle cares enough to want to bury it. 

Man vs. Fate - Doodle is born handicapped, not by choice but by a stroke of fate.

Man vs. Fate - Mother and Father expect Doodle to die soon after birth, but he defies this fate and lives.

Man vs. Society - Doodle competes for his brother's attention.  He wants to be accepted by Brother, who represents the normal children in society, so therefore to be accepted, he will follow his older Brother, even to his death.  Doodle is powerless at the end, because the demands of society, or Brother, are too great, he expects him to be normal, and he is not.