The Scarlet Ibis Questions and Answers
by James Hurst

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why is the setting so importent in The Scarlet Ibis.

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The background setting of World War I is essential to the short story "The Scarlet Ibis" because it connects to the theme. The author, James Hurst, wanted readers of his short story to consider how the war fought among "brothers" in Europe paralleled the conflict between Doodle and his brother. Hurst felt that there is always harm done when people try to force others to transform into images of themselves, whether within a family or among countries.

It is only after many months of working with Doodle, teaching him to swim and row a boat, that the brother finally realizes that the small boy will never compete with others as an equal. In bitter disappointment, the brother hurries ahead of Doodle after the rowing lesson despite Doodle's cries not to leave him. Finally, because of his exhaustion, the brother stops and waits for Doodle. When Doodle does not appear, the brother retraces his steps and, unfortunately, finds Doodle sitting with his face buried in his arms that rest on his bent legs. Like the scarlet ibis that dropped from the tree, Doodle is dead. He has bled from his mouth, and the front of his shirt is scarlet with his blood. In his shame, the brother then shelters his "fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of the rain." Tragically, it is only then that the brother recognizes the rare and beautiful qualities of Doodle, finally understanding that his efforts to remake his brother have been not only wrong but devastating.

His misplaced shame in Doodle, rather than an appreciation for the magical ibis-rarity of the boy, is what leads the brother to the destruction of the delicate creature. Likewise, in war the beautiful artifacts and structures of a country are also lost. The country's identity is attacked and people lose much of what they love as their culture is challenged.

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