How are Doodle and the Scarlet Ibis different?

Expert Answers

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

This is an interesting question, as most people who analyze James Hurst's story "The Scarlet Ibis" look at the similarities between Doodle and the scarlet ibis rather than the differences.

The scarlet ibis is a tropical bird that is native to South America, which means, of course,...

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

This is an interesting question, as most people who analyze James Hurst's story "The Scarlet Ibis" look at the similarities between Doodle and the scarlet ibis rather than the differences.

The scarlet ibis is a tropical bird that is native to South America, which means, of course, that the scarlet ibis in this story had traveled a long way from its natural home to the state of North Carolina. In contrast, Doodle had never left the farm where he was born. The scarlet ibis is not red when it's born. It's a mixture of grey, brown and some white. That makes the ibis in this story an adult, in contrast to Doodle, who is a young boy. The scarlet ibis is known as a very social and outgoing bird. In the wild, they live in colonies and are especially protective of their young. This differs from Doodle. He is not very outgoing, and actually not very talkative except for when he's on adventures with his brother. Unlike the ibis, he is the one who is in need of protection, not the one doing the protecting.

Sadly, we all looked back at the bird. A scarlet ibis! How many miles it had traveled to die like this, in our yard, beneath the bleeding tree.

The bird had a regal beauty and had traveled such a long way, that the family laments its lost life, though even in death, they marvel at the bird's beauty. Doodle travels a long journey as well, metaphorically, only to meet a tragic end. The difference in their deaths is that Doodle didn't die with the exotic grace and beauty of the bird. His head flops back when Brother lifts it, and his chest is stained with blood. This is a gruesome end to the little boy whose body was bent and lacked endurance. Beyond that, there are more similarities than differences, and I just can't resist adding one of my favorite paragraphs from the story. The veiled eyes of the bird are reminiscent of the caul that Doodle was born in. The uncoordinated movements of the bird are like Doodle's awkward efforts to walk. The comparison to the broken vase of red flowers is similar to Doodle's broken body.

At that moment the bird began to flutter, but the wings were uncoordinated, and amid much flapping and a spray of flying feathers, it tumbled down, bumping through the limbs of the bleeding tree and landing at our feet with a thud. Its long, graceful neck jerked twice into an S, then straightened out, and the bird was still. A white veil came over the eyes and the long white beak unhinged. Its legs were crossed and its clawlike feet were delicately curved at rest. Even death did not mar its grace, for it lay on the earth like a broken vase of red flowers, and we stood around it, awed by its exotic beauty.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The obvious answer would be that the Scarlet Ibis is a bird and Doodle is a boy.  But the answer goes much deeper than this.  Doodle did not struggle throughout his life to achieve what he did.  Rather, Doodle achieved his accomplishments because Brother pushed him to keep trying.  The Scarlet Ibis, however, struggled to just survive as he was pushed from his home because of the hurricane. Finally, The Scarlet Ibis died before the storm came to the landing.  Doodle, on the other hand, died as the winds and rain pummeled he and brother.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team