The Deadly Aftermath Of Pride In The Book The Scarlet Ibis

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According to recent sibling abuse statistics in a large survey, about 53 percent of children report abuse between them and their siblings at some point (“Sibling Abuse Statistics” 1).In the year 1916, the year that James Hurst’s “The Scarlet Ibis” takes place, we can assume that that percentage was higher because back then, morals and viewpoints were different. In the short story, the narrator has a newly born brother, but he wasn’t quite what he had in mind. Having a brother that could barely move, much less walk ashamed Brother and prompted him to set on fixing this “embarrassment”, so that he could have a normal sibling to run and play with. Throughout the story, he continued to control Doodle and take advantage of him, pushing him until he eventually broke. Pride and shame battle with the narrator’s desire to help Doodle: what little love he had for his brother encourages him to help Doodle become stronger and more able bodied, but he eventually gives way to cruelty and arrogance, and ultimately it leads to the death of his younger brother, making Brother responsible for Doodle’s death.

Brother’s atrocious behavior, which leads him to do very unethical things, contributes to Doodle’s death later on. Even from the very beginning of Doodle’s birth, his mother warned Brother, “He might “all there” (Hurst 1). Brother, who can’t accept anything less than perfect, sets on “fixing” this solution. “It was bad enough having an invalid brother, but having one who was possibly not all there was unbearable, so I began to make plans to kill him by smothering him with a pillow” (Hurst 1). This unbelievable mindset of someone who should accept this responsibility of a disabled sibling, instead plans to get rid of him and cover his tracks by silently murdering his own brother. Any normal person would never have such thoughts, but Brother was clearly not normal. Later on one day, Brother took Doodle up to the barn loft and, being the cruel, cold hearted person he was, made Doodle touch his own rat poision-covered coffin just for his own enjoyment. “And before I’ll help you down from the loft, you’re going to have to touch it” (Hurst 2). Showing someone the coffin that was made for them and forcing them to touch the thing that is created to hold their own corpse isn’t exactly the most reassuring thing for someone that has disabilities and everyday is more of a struggle than a normal person. It foreshadows something bad about to happen in the near future, which is exactly what does happen. Brother basically revealed Doodle’s unfortunate fate to him way too soon, and Brother himself ensures that that fate is fulfilled. This wicked behavior is the same behavior that he reveals as he deserts Doodle in a raging storm, killing him.

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While it could be argued that Brother enhanced Doodle’s life by teaching him how to walk and be normal, the narrator only did these things because it gave him control of Doodle and his actions. When Brother and Doodle surprised their family on Doodle’s 6th birthday, Doodle walked over to his seat at the table and the parents started rejoicing, because to them, they had never seen Doodle stand, much less walk. This triggered Brother to start crying. “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”(Hurst 3). Brother, knowing his brother was disabled, still acted very harsh towards him, even going as far as forcing Doodle to touch his own coffin, because it gave him a sense of power, and enjoyment to boss around a kid with disabilities. Doodle was only taught to walk because the narrator was embarrassed of his physically challenged brother. Any normal person would help their brother try to walk again for him to have a normal life, but for most, they would never do it for their own selfish reasons, like being able to boss around their helpless sibling, or because they were full of shame and embarrassment. Brother’s pride upon seeing that he helped Doodle walk continued to grow in a negative way and he took it to the extreme by unleashing his cruelty out on Doodle and deserting him despite Doodle’s frantic cries, causing the tragic death of this boy, who had just learned to be normal, all just to have his life cut short. This is why Brother is responsible for Doodle’s death.

Doodle wouldn’t have died if Brother had stayed with Doodle, protecting him and getting to safety together. Instead, his pride and selfishness get the best of him and he ran from Doodle, who having been too tired to swim and was following Brother very closely, looking for a sign of mercy. Despite the pleading cries of “don’t leave me!”, Brother ignores him even though he is fully aware of his brother’s heart condition, and flees from his vulnerable brother, who can’t keep up and his extremely weak heart stops beating. He ignored the fact that even though Doodle didn’t have the physical attributes that brother wanted in Doodle, he had a spiritual awareness about the beauty around him. Brother was so focused on Doodle not having the skills that he had that he completely disregarded Doodle’s skills, and tried to force Doodle to be exactly like him. After all the times he treated Doodle horribly and manipulated him, took advantage of him, it eventually broke him to the core. Brother caused his brother’s death, and should be held responsible.

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