An Analysis of the Story The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst

In James Hurst’s story “The Crimson Ibis”, the story goes from not accepting his disabled sibling Doodle to realizing that Doodle cannot be changed. The story “The Crimson Ibis” is about a boy who, out of pride, takes the life of his younger sibling Doodle. The story starts when Doodle is born. Doodle has a weak heart, so he can’t do the things that normal children can do.

Doodle’s brother, the narrator, is frustrated and even ashamed of his brother Doodle. He is so tired of carrying Doodle around that he starts to teach him to walk against his will. The Narrator is so proud of what he has trained his brother that he ultimately pushes him too hard and ends up killing him. At the very beginning of the story, the narrator is very much impatient with Doodle as he is different from the other boys and doesn’t have any sympathy for them. Throughout the story, their relation grows, but the narrator still can’t accept Doodle’s limitations. At the end of the story, the narrator kicks Doodle so much that he eventually kills him. 

At the start of the story, the narrator cannot accept the fact that his sibling is not like the other boys. It is obvious that the speaker is not sympathetic to Doodle’s fragile state, as he is quoted as writing: “It was bad enough to have a disabled sibling, but to have a brother who might not be all right was intolerable, so I started making plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow”. The Narrator does not accept Doodle as he is not like everyone else and definitely sympathizes with Doodle’s condition.

The narrator wanted to have a brother who could run, hop and play with him. The narrator shows that he has no sympathy for Doodle when he says: “but he learned to crawl… for the first time he was one of us”. He implies that Doodle is not like the others and wants nothing to do with him until he is normal. He kicks Doodle out of the rest of his family, and thinks of him only as a burden. The narrator reveals that he is ashamed of Doodle when he quotes, “…and when Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed to have a brother at that age who couldn’t walk.” He was more worried about his own feelings than about his brother. 

By the middle of “The Scarlet Ibis”, the narrator becomes so embarrassed of the thought of not having a normal brother that he decides to try and change Doodle. He begins to take it upon himself to teach Doodle to walk. Everyday the narrator takes Doodle down to Old Woman’s Swamp to start training him. Walking wasn’t Doodles first priority; it was his brother’s.

This is evident when the narrator states; “It seemed hopeless from the beginning that it is a miracle I didn’t give up. But all of us must have something or someone to be proud of, and Doodle had become mine”. When Doodle and the narrator show their family that Doodle can walk, everyone is proud of Doodle. The narrator was proud of himself. The narrator gets so caught up in his pride that he begins to push Doodle too hard. The narrator sets the deadline of the day Doodle begins school because he was worried about himself being embarrassed that Doodle. He decides to teach Doodle to do other things like running, swimming, climbing and fighting for his own good and not Doodles. He wants Doodle to be like everyone else.

In the end of the story, the narrator gets so caught up in his own pride that he forgets that Doodle is an extremely fragile person. When the deadline came, the narrator and Doodle still have not reached their goal. The narrator becomes so discouraged because he realized that Doodle would never be like other boys. The narrator states, “I should have already admitted defeat, but my pride wouldn’t let me.” The narrator continues to push Doodle on their last outing. Towards the end of the day, both the narrator and Doodle know that they have failed. The narrator runs from Doodle instead of being sympathetic towards Doodle. The narrator finally realizes that Doodle can never be changed and he is what he is. The narrator shows this when he says, “…the flood of childish spite evanesced as well.” This proves he recognizes his plan to change Doodle was futile.

Throughout the story, that narrator has a hard time accepting the fact that Doodle can never be changed. He is not sympathetic toward Doodle and only cares about saving himself the embarrassment of having a physically challenged brother. The narrator finds he must change Doodle by teaching him to walk and do other activities that normal boys do. He lets his pride get the best of him. He kept pushing Doodle even though he already knew he had failed. Doodle would never be like a normal boy. He would never be able to swim, run and jump with the other boys at school. The narrator had realized his plans for Doodle resulted in the ultimate failure, Doodle’s death.

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