illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst
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Who is the narrator in this story? What is the point of view?

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The narrator in "The Scarlet Ibis" is the brother of William Armstrong, later called Doodle. This story is told from first person point of view because the brother narrates and uses "I" when he relates what occurs.

In "The Scarlet Ibis" by James Hurst, there is much that the reader learns about the brother because of his role as narrator. Certainly, he is quite different from Doodle: He is a healthy, able boy, and because Doodle is frail and cannot do normal activities, the narrator is embarrassed by him. Yet, he feels that by renaming Doodle, he was kind "because nobody expects much from someone called Doodle." However, as the narrator himself reveals, he really does expect things from Doodle: He wants Doodle to walk, to swim, to row a boat, even to run because, as he confesses, he is a "slave" to his pride.

Sadly, the narrator realizes that pride

...is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death.

For, once he has taught Doodle to walk, he begins to believe in "my own infallibility." This belief becomes the narrator's tragic flaw because he demands too much of Doodle, and the weakened boy tries to keep up with his brother in a storm, but his fragile heart gives out. His "streak of cruelty" in making Doodle push himself has killed his brother.

 

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