illustration of a scarlet ibis cradling a boy's body

The Scarlet Ibis

by James Hurst

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What is the point of view and writing style in "The Scarlet Ibis"?

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This story uses the first person point of view. Brother, a character in the story, is the narrator. Using first person narration, Brother is able to tell the story from his own perspective and personal experience. So, the reader gets the events from Brother's own memory. Although this is not a series of diary entries, Brother does recall these events in a similar way. This story is Brother's confession about how he treated and mistreated his younger brother, Doodle. 

So, it is similar to a story like Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." The clear difference is that Poe's narrator (Montresor) confesses with hardly any remorse whereas Brother's confession in "The Scarlet Ibis" is filled with remorse and regret. 

Brother recounts the events in hindsight. This is why he uses the past tense from the very beginning. In retelling the story, Brother is older and wiser and therefore better able to reflect upon his mistakes with Doodle. When Brother shows his family how he's taught Doodle to walk, Brother cries and the reader understands Brother's shame in this story/confession: 

They did not know that I did it for myself, that pride, whose slave I was, spoke to me louder than all their voices, and that Doodle walked only because I was ashamed of having a crippled brother. 

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What is the point of view in "The Scarlet Ibis"?

The point of view, or vantage point, from which the narrative of "The Scarlet Ibis" is told is that of first person narrative with the brother of Doodle being the narrator. Told from this perspective of the brother, William Armstrong is presented to the reader as a "nice crazy" who first becomes one of the family when he was three as he was put on the rug before the fireplace. The little boy is given the name of Doodle when he crawls backwards because, the narrator explains, "nobody expects much from someone called Doodle."

Clearly, there is much direct characterization as the narrator evaluates Doodle himself. For example, he states that Doodle "was a burden in many ways" but that he is "licked" because he must take Doodle everywhere with him. In addition, the first person point of view also provides the reader an insight into the narrator's soul as he touches upon a characteristic of many:

There is within me (and with sadness I have watched it in others) a knot of cruelty borne by the stream of love, much as our blood sometimes bears the seed of our destruction, and at times I was mean to Doodle.

Indeed, it is the narrator's pride and his "knot of cruelty" which lead to his forcing Doodle to walk because he is ashamed of having a crippled brother, Sadly, too, this pride in the narrator leads to the death of the "scarlet ibis," his brother Doodle because he tried to remake Doodle in his image.Truly, "The Scarlet Ibis" is as much the narrator's story as it is that of Doodle. 

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From whose point of view is "The Scarlet Ibis" told?

"The Scarlet Ibis" is a beautiful story told in the first person by Brother.  He is looking back in time to a point in his youth when he saw a beautiful Scarlet Ibis.  The amazing thing is that the bird is not from this geographical region so no one has ever seen one there before.  Brother relates the story of the Ibis in connection with Doodle, the younger and disabled brother.  Doodle is pushed in a cart by Brother and eventually Brother teaches Doddle to walk, run, and be as normal as he can be.  Brother knows he is still not ready to do everything he needs to do and he continues to force Doodle to try to acheive things he is not capable of.  Brother tells the reader of the death of the ibis and draws the connection to the death of Doodle.

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