Through relationships in life many outcomes become possible. Those outcomes, or the consequences of the relationship, can lead to a deep impact on a person. In the short story “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst, Hurst uses these relationships and consequences of the relationships to create a meaningful theme. In “The Scarlet Ibis” there is an unnamed narrator Brother who feels guilty because of the death of his younger brother Doodle. Throughout the story Doodle follows Brother everywhere and does everything Brother tells him to do, which ultimately results in Doodle’s death. Hurst conveys that, ones unwavering loyalty and ones inability to see his/her faults can lead to dire consequences as shown in the relationship between Doodle and Brother and the consequences that result from their relationship.
Thus, Doodle shows his loyalty to Brother as displayed in Doodle and Brother’s relationship. For instance, Brother gets annoyed because has to pull Doodle’s cart with him on account of Doodle being unable to walk. Brother tries many tactics to get rid of Doodle. Brother explains one of those tactics as, “[t]o discourage his coming with me, I’d run with him across the ends of the cotton rows and careen him around corners on two wheels. Sometimes I accidentally turned him over, but he never told Mama” (Hurst 386). Doodle and Brother’s strong relationship, Doodle’s unwavering loyalty to Brother, is shown through Doodle not telling his mother what Brother is doing to him. If Doodle wasn’t loyal to Brother, Doodle would have told his mother that Brother is harming him by tipping his cart over in the cotton field. The kinesthetic imagery in this quote further emphasizes the irrational actions of Brother and how they could have a dire impact on Doodle. Another instance of Doodle showing his loyalty to Brother, is when Brother tries to teach Doodle to swim. Brother is extremely dedicated to making sure that Doodle becomes “normal” before Doodle goes to school. When it looks like Doodle will not achieve this goal Brother, “[makes Doodle] swim until he turned blue and row until he couldn’t lift an oar. Wherever [they] went, [Brother] purposely walked fast, and although [Doodle] kept up, his face turned red and his eyes became glazed” (Hurst 391). Doodle always tries his best to keep up with Brother due to the unwavering loyalty Doodle has for Brother. Even though Brother keeps pushing Doodle past what he is capable of, to the point of Doodle becoming extremely exhausted. Doodle keeps on trying his best, demonstrating his loyalty to Brother. The visual imagery in this quote allows the reader to visualize the detrimental effects on Doodle after Brother makes him run and row a boat. Doodle shows his unwavering loyalty through, his not telling his parents what Brother makes him do, and Doodle following Brother everywhere.
Consequently, Doodle’s loyalty to Brother and Brother’s inability to see his own faults, as shown through their relationship, leads to Doodle getting very sick, ultimately resulting in his death. After Brother starts to push Doodle really hard in his training, on account of Doodle not achieving Brother’s goal for him to be “normal” before he goes to school. Doodle gets sick. The moment their mother discovers that Doodle is sick happens when their mother noticed that, “Doodle began to look feverish, and Mama felt his forehead, asking him if he felt ill. At night he didn’t sleep well, and sometimes he had nightmares, crying out until I touched him […]” (Hurst 391). Doodle getting sick is a consequence of Brother pushing him too hard, but it is also a consequence that arises from Doodle’s unwavering loyalty to Brother. Brother can physically see the effects he has on Doodle through Doodle getting sick and Doodle’s night terrors. Even though Brother can see these effects on Doodle he fails to recognize his own fault, which was pushing Doodle too hard. Furthermore, Doodle’s loyalty to Brother prevents him from thinking rationally about what Brother makes him do. If Doodle had not been blinded by his loyalty to Brother, Doodle would have realized that what Brother makes him do is not safe and it causes him to get ill and have night terrors. Moreover, another dire consequence that derives from Doodle’s loyalty to Brother and Brother’s inability to see his own faults, is when Doodle dies. Doodle’s death scene occurs after Brother realizes that Doodle has failed to become “normal”, and Brother gets angry at him. A storm comes in and Brother runs home even though he knows that Doodle isn’t physically capable of keeping up despite how hard he tries. Doodle dies in the rain and after Brother finds his dead body, “For a long long time, it seemed forever, [Brother] lay there crying, sheltering [his] fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of rain” (Hearst 395).
Brother’s inability to see his own faults and Doodle being blinded by his loyalty to Brother, results in this scene. If Doodle had not been loyal to Brother in the first place then Doodle would have never done any of the rigorous tasks that Brother asked of him, and he wouldn’t have died. Although, all of the blame cannot be placed on Doodle. The quote proves that the scarlet ibis is a symbol for Doodle, and like Doodle the scarlet ibis dies due to an outside force, the hurricane. The outside force that causes Doodle’s death is Brother’s inability to see his own faults. One of Brother’s biggest faults is his pride. His pride is what leads Brother to push Doodle way too hard in Doodle’s training. Brother finding Doodle’s dead body is what leads Brother to reflect on himself and finally see his own faults; unfortunately, Brother is too late. Considering that Brother is crying while protecting Doodle from the rain, Brother regrets not seeing his own faults. In the short story The Scarlet Ibis, through the relationship between Doodle and Brother, and the dire consequences that result from their relationship. James Hurst conveys that, ones unwavering loyalty and ones inability to see his/her own faults can lead to unexpected consequences. Doodle’s loyalty to Brother was shown again and again because Doodle never tells his parents, what brother makes him do and Doodle always follows Brother everywhere. Doodle’s unwavering loyalty leads to him getting sick and to his death. If Doodle had told their parents what Brother makes him do, if Doodle stopped following Brother altogether, or if Brother had recognized how his pride affected Doodle, Doodle would not have died. If one has unwavering loyalty for someone his/her goal is to make the other person happy instead of taking care of himself/herself. Loyalty is generally a good trait to possess but carrying unwavering loyalty for someone can lead to dire consequences.