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In the short story "The Scarlet Ibis," author James Hurst uses his characters to paint a story to warn of the dangers of pride and of rejecting those who are seen as "different."
In the story, the young boy nicknamed Doodle is directly paralleled with the scarlet ibis named in the title. Hurst begins the story with the following sentence full of both birth and death imagery: "Summer was dead, but autumn had not yet been born when the ibis came to the bleeding tree." Toward the end of the story, the narrator elaborates on this early sentence by relating a story in which the family went out into the yard to find a "big red bird" perched in the bleeding tree; the bird fluttered, then it fell from the tree, landing "with a thud," dead. The father in the story reports that the bird is a scarlet ibis, a bird only found in the tropics. They speculate it had been blown off course by a storm and died of exhaustion. Like the scarlet ibis, the character Doodle is proven to be just as beautiful and just as out of place in his surroundings; he was also "blown off course" in that he was pushed into doing far too many things and, just like the bird, died of exhaustion.
According to the narration, when Doodle was born, he was considered to be a disappointment to his family, and no one expected him to survive long. The character hit hardest by the disappointment is the character called only Brother, who very much wanted a "normal" brother. Despite being disappointed in Doodle, Brother spent a great deal of time with him, even pulling him around in the cart their father built for him because Doodle never learned to walk. Despite the amount of time Brother spent with Doodle, he was unable to see the beautiful side of Doodle, such as the fact that he was so touched by the sight of nature, specifically the Old Woman Swamp, that he "began to cry" and say, "It's so pretty, Brother, so pretty." Because Brother so much wanted a normal brother, at one point he set out to teach Doodle how to walk, using the swamp, and succeeded. But when their family is amazed at Doodle's success, Brother cries because he feels ashamed that he taught Doodle to walk only out of selfish motives:
They didn't know that I did it just for myself, that Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother.
Sadly, Brother doesn't stop at teaching Doodle to walk. His pride drives Brother to try to teach him "to run, to row, to swim, to climb trees, and to fight," all before Doodle starts school at the age of five. However, Doodle's health is far too delicate to allow so much physical activity. Brother ignores the warning signs, even when Doodle collapses. Brother's pride even leads him to abandon Doodle one day at the start of a severe thunder storm, leading to Doodle's death.
From the parallels between Doodle and the scarlet ibis, we can learn that Doodle is characterized as a delicate, heartfelt person, whose individuality was taken for granted. We can also learn that Brother is characterized as a prideful and sometimes even sadistic person, who missed a great opportunity to spend a longer life with an amazing brother.
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