Guilt and Blame in The Scarlet Ibis, a Short Story by James Hurst

In the short story, “The Scarlet Ibis,” by James Hurst the frequent conflict of the

narrator, Brother, versus himself also displays the theme of guilt and blame. Based from Doodle’s older brother’s perspective, the story explores the guiltiness of the narrator because he is constantly contemplating on the fact that his brother’s failure and death was his fault. The phenomenon of Doodle’s death causes Brother to show his true guilt at the end of the story narrating, ” Doodle!’ I screamed above the pounding storm and threw my body to the earth above his.

For a long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis.” (Pg. 564) Brother was disappointed with Doodle for not being a star athlete, like himself, yet the narrator expresses his blame on himself for abandoning his brother in the rain. He is telling the audience an emotional experience of his childhood and blames himself for not taking into consideration Doodle’s disabilities. Throughout the story Brother also gives examples of his cruelty towards Doodle; Showing Doodle his own casket, expressing his memory of wanting to smother Doodle, and portraying the disappointment of having a younger defected brother.

These examples of Brother’s cruelty toward Doodle all exemplify the guilt and blame Brother puts on himself when Doodle dies. By the narration, one might believe that Brother blames himself for the cause of Doodle’s death. Brother put so much pressure on Doodle to be like himself, yet didn’t comprehend the setbacks Doodle faced by being disabled. Furthermore Brother feels guilt for not being a better peer and brother to Doodle. Thus the conflict of Brother versus himself portrays the theme of guilt and blame.

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