The Scarlet Ibis
James Hurst’s “The Scarlet Ibis” demonstrates so powerfully that even where there is unconditional love, there is also that little bit of malice, hidden, but bound to show itself. In this story, it is obvious that the narrator truly loves his brother Doodle for “(the narrator drags) him across the burning cotton field to share with him the only beauty (the narrator) knew, Old Woman Swamp” (103). Together, the two boys create a dynamic duo: the elder constantly making new plans and games, the younger always following along. The love between them is so strong and so tangible. The narrator does so much for Doodle, teaching him activities that come naturally to normal children, taking him to Old Woman Swamp and just about everywhere else, but most importantly of all, the narrator instills in Doodle a sense of self-confidence and pride. Doodle, though, may have done even more for the narrator in a subconscious way. By the suffering Doodle has to go through, the narrator learns the value of hard work, the consequences of pride, and the true meaning of blind love. All people have the ability to love, but they also have the capability to hate. Even with the unbreakable bond the two brothers share, the narrator realizes that “there is within (him) (and with sadness (he) has 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” (103). The narrator is mean to Doodle sometimes, making Doodle touch his own coffin, flipping him over in his go-cart, pushing him beyond his physical limit, and ultimately, causing Doodle’s untimely death. Where does this malevolence come from? How can the narrator be so cruel to one he loves? The answer is a combination of aspects. Pride, a huge culprit, motivates the narrator to teach Doodle to walk in the first place, for he was ashamed of having an invalid brother. Pride, later on, refuses to allow the narrator to give up on the hopeless training regime, forcing him to push Doodle to accomplish impossible tasks. A childish resentment of failure, at himself more than Doodle, makes him run even when he knows an exhausted and sick Doodle would try with every ounce of strength to keep up. Being very young, the narrator thought not about the consequences of his cruelty, but believed that everything would turn out fine afterwards. When Doodle dies, the narrator finally realizes that these childish acts could not continue, that people must be conscious of the cruelty that is committed without thought. If we are careful, we may be able to prevent the bandit that is hate from stealing a ride on the train of love.