Framed, Composed, Artsy
When we talk about writing style we're talking about the way the author uses grammar, punctuation, literary devices (like flashbacks and symbols for example), and even spelling to create effects. Style includes the length, structure, and arrangement of sentences and paragraphs. It can include word choice. Here we'll focus on some of the broad elements of style in "The Scarlet Ibis."
"The Scarlet Ibis" contains a frame story, or a story within a story. The main story of Brother and Doodle's time together is framed as a memory. Most stories told in the past tense are implied memories. The narrator has to be remembering them to tell them. But here Brother explicitly states that the story he's telling is a memory. The idea of memory is the frame for his point of view, but the ibis itself functions as the story's literal frame.
The title, the first sentence, and the last sentence all refer to the ibis. Does this strike you as a tad too neat and tidy? Brother's memory seems more like a carefully composed painting than an accurate description of a series of events. The best example of what we mean is probably this line:
Finally I went back and found him huddled beneath a red nightshade bush beside the road. (4.48)
Remember, the ibis is found in "the bleeding tree." A bleeding tree is any tree that is giving off sap, either of its own accord, or because a person has tapped it. The sap might be reddish, but it's not likely that it's red like blood. Still, it gives us an image of red, and of blood. It's almost annoying Doodle would die underneath a red bush in addition to physically resembling the ibis in death. We don't want to feel like we're being beaten over the head with symbols when we read. But, there are some positive ways of looking at this aspect of Hurst's style here in the "Ibis."
Brother could be suggesting that memory is a creative act, an art form. To deal with the pain of his experience, to maintain some control over his intense emotions (guilt, love, etc.) Brother needs to arrange the memory artfully. He can't change what happened but he can, to some extent, control how it looks in his mind. If he has to look at it every day, he might as well add some beauty to the horror.
Or maybe he can't control it. Maybe he isn't doing it deliberately. Maybe the key to all this red lies in the final paragraph of the story:
I began to weep, and the tear blurred vision in red before me looked very familiar. (4.54)
From the moment Brother begins to weep, when he realizes Doodle is dead, and that he'd "been bleeding from the mouth" he will remember those events with "tear blurred vision in red" (4.49). This could mean that everything he's told us up to that point has been remembered with, we can't help repeating, "tear blurred vision in red." It doesn't really matter if the bush was 'really' red or not.
If you've spent anytime looking at the natural world, you know that it, like Brother's descriptions, seems almost too perfect, too beautiful, too artfully constructed. In addition to expressing his guilt and grief, Brother is expressing his vision of people, nature, and animals as intimately connected in mysterious ways.
It's also a way for him to at least try to put Doodle's death into perspective, at least try not to think of himself as a murderer. While he knows Doodle's death was avoidable (or he wouldn't be feeling so guilty) he can still take cold comfort in the fact that the forces of nature kill on a much grander scale every day.
Before we let you out of this section, we should say a few words on foreshadowing. As you know, foreshadowing is technique writers use to prepare the reader for important events that will happen in the story. Foreshadowings are hints or clues about what is to come. Many readers note that "The Scarlet Letter Ibis" foreshadows Doodle's death in quite a few ways.
Most obviously, the death of the ibis foreshadows Doodle's death. The interesting thing is that, according to Brother, Doodle's death isn't just being foreshadowed in his telling of the story, but in real life. According to him, nature, from the smell of "graveyard flowers" in the first paragraph, to the dying of the ibis, was foreshadowing Doodle's death on that fateful afternoon. What do you think of this? Does nature foreshadow what will happen to us as if life is just one big novel? Or is does it only look like foreshadowing in hindsight?
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Essay On The Scarlet Ibis - With A Free Essay Review
The Scarlet Ibis is a short story by James Hurst weaving the tragic tale of Doodle, a disabled child and his brother, the narrator. Doodle's life has been a series of close calls; the only reason he is alive is the love and persistence and occasional cruelty of his brother. Brother's only motivation is to make Doodle like other kids in order to avoid the embarrassment of having a six-year-old brother who cannot even walk, amounting to what is, in essence, a battle with his own ego. As the story continues, Brother tries to fix the irreparable hole in his heart caused by his shame and selfishness toward Doodle.
Brother is constantly reminding Doodle of his own debility, bringing to light Doodle's unwillingness to participate in his brother's cold-blooded attempts to point out Doodle's mortality. When Brother makes Doodle touch the casket, he knows what to expect from Doodle. Doodle was paralyzed, so I put him on my shoulder and carried him down the ladder, and even when we were outside in the sunlight, he clung to me, crying, 'Don't leave me. Don't leave me.'(486). Doodle is utterly terrified of the casket, and his brother is aware of it. By making Doodle touch the casket, he is imprinting upon Doodle that he can never be normal, that he will always be teetering on the brink of life and death, never to be able to live up to his full potential. However cruel Brother's actions may be, he still takes an interest in Doodle, purely for his self-satisfaction. When Doodle was five years old, I was embarrassed at having a brother of that age who couldn't walk, so I set out to teach him.(488) Brother teaches Doodle how to walk, but it is purely for his own conscience. Embarrassed by Doodle's condition, he tries to fix Doodle's many abnormalities, without considering Doodle's own views and feelings.
The only thing that Brother wanted was a sibling with which he could play with, and the arrival of Doodle shattered his hopes. As a result, he makes Doodle pay for it on many occasions, the last of which took the life of his younger brother. For a long, long time, it seemed forever, I lay there crying, sheltering my fallen scarlet ibis from the heresy of the rain.(493). In the end, Brother finally realizes the effects his actions have on young Doodle. The emotional trauma of his brother abandoning him in the rain combined with his preexisting physical conditions came together in a perfect storm, bringing to light the final effects of Brother's ambition-driven actions, a simple childhood act of spite with devastating results. Throughout the story, Brother tries to show both sides of the double-edged sword that is pride. I did not know then that pride is a wonderful, terrible thing, a seed that bears two vines, life and death.(488)
Brother's pride pushes him to give Doodle an existence away from his bed, and it is this obsession that leads to Doodle's tragic demise. Brother's pride did create a facsimile of real life for Doodle, but in the end, it crumbled, brought to its knees by pride and selfishness. Brother did love Doodle, but his ego overshadowed the fact the he was just trying to protect Doodle from a world that doesn't tolerate those that are different.
Doodle dies sad and broken, abandoned by the one person he looked up to. Brother proves himself no better than Doodle, showing himself to be as morally destitute as Doodle is physically incapable. In the end, however, Brother realizes that Doodle could not have led the life he left without his big brother leading the way for him. Brother may have acted cruelly toward his brother, but in the end, he realizes that some things cannot be changed, no matter the amount of love and persistence.
I have not read the story The Scarlet Ibis, but in a very good essay that would not matter much because the essay would fill me in on any details needed to understand the argument that is being made about the story. For instance, if your essay explained why the narrator refers to his dead brother as a fallen scarlet ibis, I would be less confused than I am now. You should write your essay for a reader who's as stupid as me and needs everything explained. I don't understand, for instance, why you say that Doodle is alive because of the love and persistence of his brother, and then inform me that the poor blighter dies "abandoned." I also don't understand why you say "Brother tries to fix the irreparable hole in his heart caused by his shame and selfishness toward Doodle," when the rest of your essay says nothing about this attempt to fix his cardiac problem. Your introduction, in other words, doesn't really introduce your essay. You need a clearer thesis statement that clarifies, for the sake of stupid readers like me, what you are actually going to argue about the story. Then, for the sake of stupid readers like me you need to make that argument the focus of your essay. Your essay instead meanders towards its argument, an argument that doesn't really get going until the final couple of paragraphs. The second paragraph begins with a descriptive summary and makes an unclear reference to some event about some casket or other and then works up to a claim about the narrator's self-interest in teaching Doodle to walk. The third paragraph begins by returning to descriptive summary and then eventually arrives at a claim about the narrators double-edged pride. The quotation about pride sounds interesting enough, the kind of thing that might be related to the core meaning of the story, but if that is the case (and it certainly seems to be the case that you are interested in the question of pride) then the question of pride should be the focus of the essay from the beginning. So, revise your thesis so that it articulates an explicit argument about the story. Then revise the organization of your essay so that the argumentative purpose of each paragraph is clear. Typically we do that by having topic sentences that make specific claims about the story at the beginning of our paragraphs and then use the rest of the paragraph to prove the truth of the claim. Your claims about the story tend not to be proven or explicitly related to a clearly defined overall argument. Instead you tend merely to assert the claim and hope your reader can fill in the gap between your summary of the story and the claims you make about it. Stupid readers like me aren't going to get it.
Submitted by: gproduturi11