A selfish pride and shame over someone you love can make you treat them cruelly. The Scarlet Ibis by James Hurst is a fictional story in which the narrator learns this truth through a brutal encounter. It’s a flashback story told by the antagonist. In it, a boy is driven to push Doodle so hard that he breaks. Pride, shame, and love are all at war with the narrator’s wish to help Doodle. While his love makes him want to help his brother, he eventually gives in to his cruelty.
Doodle is pushed beyond his boundaries by the narrator out of shame and selfishness. He wants to be a brother like Doodle. The narrator’s fear was more than just what Doodle would think about him. He was ashamed that his jovial, sweet and innocent brother looked up to him and could not walk. “It’s bad enough that I have a brother who is disabled…I was ashamed to have a brother with limb disabilities” (146,149). Doodle made the narrator ashamed, so he transformed him into a person he can be proud off. In his selfishness, he tried to push him past the breaking point. In this case, greed was also at play. The narrator longs for a sibling to play and run with. Doodle on the other had a different attitude. “I wanted above all else…someone with whom to box, someone with whom to perch on the top fork in the great pine behind our barn. “I wanted a sibling” (143). Doodle wasn’t the brother he had in mind so he decided to “fix” Doodle. Doodle was a victim of the narrator’s desire for a normal brother, and his shame at Doodle.
Doodle’s pride was also what drove him to do things against his own best interests. The narrator says that Doodle could be the thing he was looking for to make him proud. Doodle would do anything to please Brother, to make Doodle more confident and stronger. Pride is natural, but if it’s forced on someone else, then that can be harmful. Brother felt pride inside him after Doodle started walking with the narrator. He began to believe that he could do anything. “I began to think of myself as infallible…I would teach my son to run, swim, climb a tree, and fight (150). This is the first time that the narrator feels pride. This feeling can be addicting for those without humility. This emotion, which made Brother feel flawless and powerful, was something he needed to experience again. Doodle must be pushed harder if he wants to feel pride again.
The narrator’s actions are a manifestation of love, no matter how heartless he may be. This peculiar love for Doodle is described by the narrator. Brother’s power to hurt people is more intense than that of any other person. “There was a knot in my heart…borne on the current of love…and there were times when I was cruel towards Doodle” (146). Although there are patches of sadness in the narrator’s strange affection, he does love Doodle. Brother’s fear is not for him alone, but for Doodle. Brother does not want Doodle to be treated badly at school because he is different. The narrator weeps when Doodle dies. He knows that it was his fault. I threw my dead body on top of his…I laid there weeping, protecting my scarlet ibis against the heresy rain” (157). He has never openly shown his affection for Doodle but this love bursts through when his brother died. Brother will regret not being more kind and compassionate to Doodle, and this guilt will be with him forever. The narrator was genuinely concerned for Doodle. Doodle also felt the love from his brother, even though it seemed hidden.
Before it was too much to do, Brother had no idea how strongly he’d pushed Doodle. His shame, his pride, and their roots in his brain and his heart overcame all his reasoning. He finally drove his impulses out, and found that Doodle was dead. Doodle was killed by the narrator due to his shameful selfishness, his invincible feeling, and his deplorable sense of pride. Brother’s experience can serve as an example of how not to let personal feelings or desires dictate your behavior towards those you hold dear.
Hurst, James. Holt Literature and Language Arts. Kylene Biers, Carol Jago (et al.) Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Austin, Texas 2009. 140-159. Print.