What are the key passages in The Scarlet Ibis?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When a student is assigned the recording of "key passages" there are at least three things to consider in one's search through a narrative: 

  1. Elements of plot (e.g. passages that explain the title, the conflicts, the climax, the resolution), 
  2. Important elements of character development (e.g. when the dynamic characters undergo a change or emotional/mental growth
  3. Elements of the story that help develop the theme, such as symbolism

Here, then, are key passages from "The Scarlet Ibis" (Page numbers will be from this internet site:

http://ng002.k12.sd.us/english9/Unit%202%20Resources/Comparing%20Literary%20Works%20p.%20382-401.pdf  

(If this does not work, Google "The Scarlet Ibis" and it is the 3rd one, and has [pdf] before it.)

Foreshadowing passages

  • p. 385 - In this passage Aunt Nicey speaks of the caul in which William Armstrong has been born, saying that cauls were made from the nightgown of Jesus. Thus, she suggests life and hope while Daddy has a mahogany coffin made for him in a fatalist mood. 
  • p. 386 - The baby begins to crawl and brother names his Doodle. But, Aunt Nicey disapproves of such a name, saying caul babies should be treated with "special respect since they might turn out to be saints."
  • p.386 - Doodle is "a burden" to the brother; however, he ignores all the warnings about treating him gently, running with the wagon Doodle was in and exposing him to the sun.
  • p. 387 - "After that Day Doodle and I often went down into Old Woman Swamp," brother narrates, indicating that Doodle loves beauty and life as much as he. But, brother also admits,

"There is within me ...a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the see of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle.

  • p.388 - The brother decides to teach Doodle to walk because "all of us must have something or someone to be proud of, and Doodle had become mine. I did not know then that pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death." (this passage also indicates the brother's character as he puts his pride ahead of caring for Doodle.) 
  • p. 391 - A war and a blight come to the farm, and one night in July a hurricane strikes. All these suggest death and tragedy.
  • p.393 - The scarlet ibis, a rare bird, is blown in by a storm and dies, foreshadowing Doodle's death. The bird's awkward movements also align him with Doodle.

Character Analysis passages

  • The brother is determined to teach Doodle to run and swim and do almost all the things that he can do. After the war begins, misfortune strikes as the cotton crop becomes blighted. The father curses when he views his ruined crop, frightening the boys, and "Doodle slipped his hand into mine." This gesture indicates that Doodle depends so much upon his older brother. Yet, the brother is blinded by his pride, insisting that he learn to run. So Doodle sacrifices his safety to please his brother because he does not care that he is different.
    -p.391

"Do you want to be different from everybody else when you start school?" [Brother asks]
"Does it make any difference?"
"It certainly does...."

-p.392 - It was Saturday noon, just a few days before school was to start. I should have already admitted defeat, but my pride wouldn't let me....It was too late to turn back, for we had both wandered too far into a net of expectations and left no crumbs behind. [allusion to Hansel and Gretel]

  • p. 394 The brother's pride continues and he becomes angered when Doodle fails at rowing. When the storm approaches, the brother begins to run and Doodle watches "for a sign of mercy"; however, the fundamental difference between the brothers has not changed. 

...that streak of cruelty within me awakened. I ran as fast as I could, leaving him far behind with a wall of rain dividing us.

       Finally, the brother goes back for Doodle, but like the scarlet ibis, he,              too, has died in the storm.

Symbolism and Imagery passages

  • p. 384 - In the beginning paragraph, details about flowers, weeds, and an oriole nest symbolize death
  • p. 385 - the "caul" symbolizes hope and life
  • p. 386- Old Woman Swamp's flowers symbolized life and beauty
  • p. 390 - the peacock in Doodle's fabricated story symbolizes death as it covers the boy with its wings
  • p. 391 - the blighted summer in which the cotton crop is ruined is symbolic of the family's lives that will be blighted by the loss of Doodle.
  • the scarlet ibis, of course, is symbolic of Doodle as it is awkward in its movements, and it dies.
Sources:

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