In "The Scarlet Ibis," how does the author use the theme of pride?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In "The Scarlet Ibis" the brother's interactions with Doodle are all motivated by pride. When his disabled baby brother still cannot walk at age five, the narrator takes Doodle to Old Woman Swamp Creek until he learns to walk at age six. When Doodle tells his family that his brother has taught him, the members of the family want to embrace him in their elation, but Brother begins to cry.

"What are you crying for?" asked Daddy, but I couldn't answer. They did not know that I did it for myself, that pride, whose slave I was, spoke to me louder than all their voices, and that Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother

Further, after his accomplishment of teaching Doodle to walk, Brother began to believe he is infallible, so he "prepared a terrific development program for him, unknown to Mama and Daddy, of course." But, in truth, Doodle is strained to comply with the programs that Brother devises. For instance, he has Doodle swimming and climbing, activities which greatly strain his compromised little body. When Doodle stops, or says he cannot co something, Brother tells him,

"Aw, come on, Doodle....You can do it. Do you want to be different from everybody else when you start school?"

"Does it make any difference?"

"It certainly does."

Finally, Brother's pride exceeds his reason when Doodle cannot accomplish the goals set for him. In anger one day, Brother runs from his tired and frightened brother in the storm, even when he hears Doodle calling to him. Already exhausted from his athletic activities, poor Doodle collapses, a victim of the selfishness and overbearing pride of Brother.

"Doodle!" I screamed above the pounding storm and threw my body to the earth above his. For a long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain.

This "heresy of rain" is a metaphor for the falseness of Brother's motives for running. For, truly, it is his stubborn pride that has caused the death of Doodle.

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