Why do you think Hurst wrote "The Scarlet Ibis?" That is, what larger message was he trying to convey?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In "The Scarlet Ibis," James Hurst points to the polarities of life and demonstrates how even certain feelings can be both valuable and destructive. These polarities are at the heart of Hurst's message.

At one point in the narrative, the brother realizes that his pride, like Nature, "is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death." This statement is thematic. Like Nature, which affords the father his livelihood but also brings blight to his cotton fields and terrible thunderstorms, the brother's pride prompts Doodle to learn to walk--an accomplishment that thrills his parents and Aunt Nicey--but it also urges the brother, with this success, to push Doodle on to mastering more difficult feats, such as rowing a boat and running. These actions prove to be tragic as the delicate boy cannot sustain the stress of so much exercise, especially as a thunderstorm bears down upon him.

At the end of the story, the narrator/brother holds Doodle, comparing him to the dead scarlet ibis, blown in from a stranger place. This comparison is fitting since Doodle, born in a caul and recognized by his Aunty Nicey as unique and spiritually blessed, has always been a delicate creature who has not been able to survive the tempests of life like the scarlet ibis. Indeed, it has been the tempest of the narrator's "second vine" of pride that has killed Doodle.